When Philadelphia hosts the annual Made In America music festival Labor Day weekend curated by Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj will be on hand. And so will Post Malone, Meek Mill, Diplo, Zedd and roughly five dozen other acts. But the beer brand that helped get the 7-year old annual event off the ground won't be there.
Budweiser—which used to spend millions of dollars staging and promoting the fest—opted not come back this year as it sets its sights on other music priorities, like country music-themed events held at its own breweries, and music partnerships with the NBA. Jay-Z's Roc Nation, which produces Made in America, announced the full lineup this week, along with a sponsor lineup that includes Abercrombie & Fitch, Citi, Puma and American Airlines. (Citi is the only returning sponsor.)
Sponsors enter and leave music events all the time. So what's the big deal about Bud not coming back? In this case, it's significant because the brew once dedicated a major portion of its all-important summer marketing calendar to the festival, seeing it as a way to reach younger, more diverse drinkers. Also, Bud's music moves are worth watching because Anheuser-Busch InBev spends more money than any other marketer sponsoring music tours, festivals and venues. The brewer accounted for 51 percent of the $1.54 billion shelled out last year in North America, according to according to sponsorship consultancy ESP-IEG. (Uber came in second at 21 percent.)
Budweiser VP Ricardo Marques offers this explanation for the decision to walk away from Made in America: "We are realizing that music is being consumed in many different ways today and we want to keep up with trends and how consumers are behaving today." That includes investing more in country music. According to the brewer's research, fans at country music events spend more on beer than at similarly sized events featuring other genres, Marques says.
"As Budweiser's contract expired in 2018, Roc Nation and Budweiser are proud of the countless music moments created for hundreds of thousands of fans," a Roc Nation spokeswoman said in a statement to Ad Age. "Roc Nation and Budweiser are confident the event will continue to make cultural history for many years to come."
Bud's emboldened country music push included this year's South by Southwest conference and festival, where the brand partnered with Sony Music Nashville to stage the "Country Music Showcase" at the Fair Market in Austin, Texas. It featured acts like Kane Brown and Elle King. The brand erected a three-level, open-air "Budweiser Country Club" with bars and outdoor games. The Club first showed up in 2016 at other country music events, like Stagecoach in California and the CMA Music Festival in Nashville. Bud has also inked deals with Florida Georgia Line and Thomas Rhett.
Country music also plays a key role in Bud's "Budweiser Backyard" series, in which it opens up its breweries to the public for music food and beer tastings and appearances by the brand's Clydesdales. There's one on Saturday at a Newark, New Jersey brewery, where country acts Roads Below and Matt Stillwell will perform.
Music and basketball
But it's not all about country for Bud: the brand is also trying to weave music into its NBA sponsorship.The brew put on "Budweiser Live" at the league's All-Star Game in Los Angeles in February, which featured music acts including T-Pain and hip hop artist MadeinTYO, as well as several artists, including Morley, who specializes in street art. "Sports crosses with lifestyle and music is a key part of that world," Marques says. "We are using the NBA as a way into music."
Budweiser declined to share how much it spent on Made in America. A person familiar with the deal estimated the brewer poured $10 million into sponsoring and marketing Bud at the event's peak, which for one year included concurrent shows in L.A. and Philly. The beer is so closely linked with the festival that the Philadelphia Inquirer in a story this week on this year's line-up still referred to it as "Budweiser Made in America"—which amounted to a free plug for Bud.
Anheuser-Busch InBev dove head-first into helping to create the festival with Jay-Z in 2012 under the brewer's then-U.S. Marketing VP Paul Chibe, who saw it as a way to reach younger, more diverse audiences. In the early years, Translation, the ad agency led by former music industry exec Steve Stoute, was heavily involved.
Over the years, national TV ads included Jay-Z. And Bud routinely hyped the event on social media. Bud even backed a 90-minute documentary based on the event that was directed by Ron Howard and aired on Showtime in 2013 (watch the original trailer below). In 2014, the event went bi-coastal, with the Labor Day event running in Los Angeles and Philly. The dual-city approach only lasted one year.
Last year, Bud produced a digital video in advance of the event featuring Jay-Z voicing a poem called "Dream On." That amounted to Bud's final Jay-Z tie-in. "We loved working with him. We loved the stuff we did together," Marques says. He added: "We are not excluding the the fact that in the future we might collaborate again."
"Made in America" documentary trailer: