How Anheuser-Busch InBev Got Into Fitness, Concerts and Crowdfunding

Move. Sweat. Beer. Ad for Michelob event.

Graphic from “”.

Every Thursday at 6:00 pm, you could work out virtually with trainers like Gideon Akande of Shadowbox, or celebrity fitness gurus like Ron Everline. If you wanted something more serene, you could do a Yoga session with Jo Murdock of Y7 Studio.

Available on platforms like YouTube, each of these fitness professionals were part of a community that had to shutter operations on account of COVID-19. The program (dubbed MOVEMENT) gave each a platform to connect, along with a virtual tip jar that was matched up to $7,500 a week. On certain weeks, some sessions saw over a million people join.

To the surprise of some, MOVEMENT was put on by Michelob ULTRA, which many of us know as the light beer with only 95 calories. As its global parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) worked on the ground, shifting production capabilities to make hand sanitizer, or turning stadiums into blood drive facilities, the Michelob ULTRA team was feeding into a broader effort to activate digital.

AB InBev believed they could make an impact online, as they had spent years building a foundation for it; It was one that could deliver speed and resiliency, regardless of outside forces. This effort included their internal agency draftLine, which executed projects quickly, as well as a set of technologies to enable global scale and consistency. Adobe had been able to play a role with collaborative design tools in Adobe Creative Cloud, along with apps like Adobe Experience Manager for managing web content in the US.

From efforts to help bars maintain continuity, or activities to help people pass the time, COVID-19 pushed the company to hit pause on existing campaigns and divert focus to areas like fitness, concerts and crowdfunding. Each of these programs were as diverse as the AB InBev community itself, and it is a good example of where digital plays a role in times of change.

New ways to help

AB InBev has a long working history with the bar and restaurant industry, a sector that had been heavily impacted by COVID-19. In addition to funding broader relief efforts, digital campaigns like “Save the Pubs” were used to crowdfund resources for local businesses as well. Once the idea had been hatched, the team was able to deliver a dedicated microsite in a matter of days. Consumers could show support by ordering a gift card for future use, which AB InBev would then match with funds that went directly to the business.

AB InBev's Save the Pubs ad.

Graphic from “”.

According to Ricardo Ortegon, global VP of marketing technology: “As a company, we had to shift away from a sales and marketing orientation and look at ways we could support our communities. The experience has made us rethink how we engage consumers in the future and the digital foundation we can activate globally. The ‘Save the Pub’ voucher program for instance, was replicated in over 20 countries. We serve many different communities and the possibilities feel pretty endless. And from a technology standpoint, we can rely on apps from Adobe to help us design, deliver and measure these digital experiences.”

According to Tracy Stallard, global VP of experiential and in-house agency (draftLine): “Most people would consider AB InBev an equity marketer, where we build high level awareness and saliency for the brand. We were not as focused on direct consumer engagement, but COVID-19 pushed that effort forward. I think it has been an important exercise for us, helping the company learn the best ways to engage via digital and how to support our communities. We were able to activate our internal agency draftLine as well, which gave us incredible speed with programs like Save the Pubs and MOVEMENT. All of this supplemented the efforts being done on the corporate level, and it allowed us to connect on a different level.”

“The response so far has been incredibly encouraging, and we are seeing a continued uptick in each of these programs,” added Tracy. “It is showing us that consumer behaviors are accelerating much quicker than most anticipated. Audiences across the board are becoming even more digital, with greater expectations of meaningful experiences online. That is not something we expect to change, and it is something that all brands have to invest in moving forward.”

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Experience Makers Live event ad.