In Atlanta, this Bud’s for Big Boi, who is now fronting 25-ounce cans of the brew. And in Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Nashville and Tampa, Coors Light drinkers are about to get a heavy dose of the Jonas Brothers, whose faces will soon appear on six-packs.
The limited-edition packaging plays are the latest attempt by the two big beer brands to remain culturally relevant as more drinkers turn to other alcohol options, like hard seltzer, craft beers and cocktails.
Putting music stars on beverage packaging is hardly revolutionary. Pepsi, for instance, has made a habit out of it. The cola last year put Michael Jackson, Ray Charles and Britney Spears on cans, marking a return for Jackson, who also appeared on a special-edition can in 2012.
But for big beer brands, it’s a relatively new tactic. “It’s happening more in the beer space, especially on those macro-level brands—Budweiser, Bud Light, Coors Light,” says Mark Gallo, a former employee of Anheuser-Busch and Heineken who now works for Nor-Cal Beverage Co., an independent contract co-packer for beverage brands. The big beer brands have “maxed out their awareness,” he says. So they must do more to stand out on shelves next to “those highly captive craft beer cans that are always changing,” he says.
But brands must be careful to avoid oversaturation of special-edition packaging. “Scarcity drives demand for more,” says Coors Light marketing director Chris Steele. “If we would do this all the time, it wouldn’t be special.”
Coors Light eyed the Jonas Brothers as a potential marketing partner after noticing the band’s members holding the brew in social media posts. Joe Jonas brought attention to Coors Light over the summer during an interview on Westwood One’s Zach Sang radio show. Discussing his then-upcoming wedding to actress Sophie Turner, he quipped, “I mean, we are getting married in France, so a lot of Coors Light is necessary.” The quote got replayed on multiple entertainment media outlets. Although Coors Light is not sold in France, the brand sent him a special delivery for the June ceremony, complete with special labels stating “Joe and Sophie 2019.”
The new labels, which hit stores in mid-November, show the faces of the Jonas Brothers implanted in the brand’s usual Rocky Mountain imagery. They come in the wake of a visit the Jonas Brothers made earlier this month to a Coors Light brewery in Colorado, where the band was touring. In a press release, the brand touts the labels as being used on a batch of Coors Light that “Kevin, Joe and Nick helped to brew.”
Steele says the five cities where the special-edition six-packs will be sold were picked because the brand has identified opportunities to gain sales from fans ages 21 to 27 in those markets. He confirmed the brand paid the band in order to use its likeness, but declined to reveal financial details. Still, Steele stressed that Coors Light will strike deals like this only with true fans of the brand. “Our belief is that the relationship has to be truly athletic,” he says. “We are not paying somebody to love our brand.”
Bud’s Big Boi play is aimed at leveraging the rapper’s association with Atlanta. The cans are available only for a limited time in Georgia. The design, including an image of the rapper by hip-hop photographer Gunner Stahl, includes the text “The world renowned ATLien Original,” which is a nod to an album title by Outkast, the hip-hop duo formed by Big Boi and Andre 3000 in the early 1990s. The top of the can features lyrics from Big Boi’s song “In the A,” which was written about Atlanta.
Monica Rustgi, Budweiser VP-marketing, said in a statement that the brand admires Big Boi’s “influence on music culture and how he put Southern rap on the map. In light of his upcoming new album, we took our beloved Tall Boy and redesigned it to honor him.”
Anheuser-Busch InBev’s other recent music packaging plays include distributing special Bud Light cans featuring an image of rapper Post Malone. The special 16-ounce cans began distribution in 15 cities earlier this month, including locales where the artist’s tour is stopping. Bud Light did not stop at packaging: In August, the brand announced a fashion line that includes streetwear influenced by Post Malone’s tattoos as well as Bud Light branding, including an image of “Baron the Runaway Clydesdale,” a horse form the first-ever Bud Light ad.