Bud Light's NFL Effort Is Weird, But It Certainly Doesn't Work

Ads Feature Teams That Least Need to Rely on Fans' Superstitions

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The most superstitious NFL fans don't exactly have a sterling history at willing their teams to victory, according to a Bud Light survey. The survey was released in conjunction with the beer brand's unsuccessful and pitiful "It's Only Weird If It Doesn't Work" ad campaign.

The Fan Superstition survey, based on opinions from 10,000 adult NFL fans, showed that the top five most superstitious fan bases support the Baltimore Ravens, the Arizona Cardinals, the New Orleans Saints, the Oakland Raiders and the Philadelphia Eagles. With the exception of the Ravens, those four teams have a long history of frustrating loyal fans who'd do anything for a win. The Raiders, once perennial powerhouses, haven't been relevant since the '80s. The Saints, who've had a solid decade (and a Super Bowl win), were known as the 'Aints for the first two decades of their existence. And long-suffering Eagles and Cardinals fans have seen their teams get to the Super Bowl this century only to lose.

Bud Light, meanwhile, is featuring NFL teams in its ads that least need to rely on fans' superstitions: the Seattle Seahawks, the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos, all of which were all heavily favored this year.

Such confusion might explain why the "It's Only Weird" campaign is such a failure. Bud Light might still be No. 1 in the U.S., but it's sales are slipping (U.S. sales fell by 0.68% in the 52 weeks ending Nov. 3). And that might be why Anheuser-Busch's VP-marketing in the U.S. is leaving the premises. The brewer is developing a campaign for Bud Light that is expected to debut on the Super Bowl. Paul Chibe, the marketing exec who is departing A-B, said the new ads for Bud Light had "cracked the code."

That's what they thought when the "It's Only Weird" ads debuted. The A-B brass took pride in the fact that the campaign had gotten positive playback when it was consumer tested (unlike the "Wassup" spots for brand Budweiser).

But now that I see the superstition survey, I get the feeling they may have tested them with the wrong crowd.

Look at it this way: If you've got a good football team, you don't need gimmicks such as playing the same song on the jukebox to help your team win. Only fans of the bad teams, or the mediocre teams, feel they need to resort to witchcraft or other superstitious behavior to push their team into the winner's circle.

So if the A-B people tested the Bud Light ads in the markets that fielded the poor teams, of course the research would come back supporting the "weird" campaign.

It's simple: Bad teams need all the superstitions they can conjure up if only to offset the curses that have befallen them, such as the Billy Goat curse placed on the Chicago Cubs, or the Bambino curse on the Boston Red Sox.

The Cubs curse goes back to 1945 when Billy Goat tavern owner Billy Sianis was asked to leave a World Series game against the Detroit Tigers at Wrigley Field because his pet goat's odor was bothering other fans. He was outraged by this humiliation, and he declared: "Them Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more" -- which was interpreted to mean that there would never be another World Series game won at Wrigley Field. Indeed, the Cubs have never won a National League pennant since the curse and haven't won a World Series since 1908.

Or take the Boston Red Sox curse -- which Red Sox fans don't reference much anymore since they started winning. But the curse of the Bambino was cast after the team sold pitcher Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in the off-season of 1919-1920. Before the ill-conceived sale, the Red Sox had been one of the most successful baseball franchises, winning the first World Series and compiling five World Series titles. After the sale the team went without a title for decades until the Red Sox beat the Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship series (overcoming an 0-3 deficit) and then went on to sweep the World Series.

I'm not sure it's a good thing for a beer company to aim its ads at the weirder activities of its drinkers. I know the object is to have them come off as lovable losers, but there's a fine line between weird and lovable.

Some of the fan superstitions posted on the Bud Light Facebook page don't exactly match the target beer drinker. One posting, by someone who calls himself or herself "like my ├ęclair," says he or she "takes my socks off and hangs them from light fixtures." Another admits to "laying on the floor with my legs crossed and looking at the TV upside down." A third: "Dressing my dog in an Eagles jersey." Player 1 "surrounds myself with people that have star tattoos." One obviously long-suffering fan says he puts "wing sauce in my eyes." IAbuseMyLiver admits that "we asked my buddy's wife to sit in the kitchen so we could score." Wes owns up to "sticking my finger in my girlfriend's eye."

But maybe superstitions bring out the best in people, too. One good soul says he or she "must hug three homeless men after each win." And another guy flosses his teeth after every play.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this column attributed the 'Wassup' campaign to Bud Light. It was a Budweiser effort.

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