Budweiser focuses on male friendship with ‘Bring Back the Buds’

Who: Budweiser, with Anomaly for strategy and creative; Carat for media; Veritas for PR.

What: “Bring Back the Buds,” a  campaign timed for International Friendship Day (July 30) that focuses on male friendship. It’s the beer brand’s major summer marketing effort, with a stated goal to “motivate men to deepen their connections and turn expressions like, ‘let’s grab a beer’ into action.”

When & Where: The multi-platform campaign is housed at ThatsWhatBudsDo.ca, supported by a two-minute and 40-second video on its social channels. A 90-second version of the video is running during Sportsnet’s telecast of the Toronto Blue Jays/Anaheim Angels game on Sunday, which is International Friendship Day.

Why: Friendship and socializing has long been a core component of most beer marketing, but it’s typically seen through what is often described as a “shoulder to shoulder” lens, showing men bonding around activities like watching sports, playing games, etc.

But even that aspect of male friendship has been waning, with Bud’s internal data showing that 34% of its beers were consumed alone in Canada last year, an increase of 14% over the past decade. “That was the insight we needed to say that as the leading beer brand that is all about friendship, we have an active role to play,” said senior marketing director David Sheedy.

Male friendships have been shown to have a positive impact on everything from stress levels to mental health, but can be difficult to maintain as life gets in the way.

And Bud has been leaning into the idea of male friendship recently, including swapping out its longstanding “This Bud’s For You” positioning in favour of “That’s What Buds Do” in late 2021. According to Sheedy, the former platform was more “singular and individual,” while the latter is more reflective of friendship.

“It’s speaking to what we’re all about at Budweiser, which is making time for your friends,” he said. “[Friendship] is something that men in particular don’t open up about, so it was important for us to start the conversation and also have a proof point of what we want to do about it.”

How: The campaign is built around the idea that Canadian men might be experiencing a “friendship recession,” as everyday life—job, family, etc.—causes them to drift away from their friends.

Budweiser first started teasing the campaign by removing “Bud” from its various communications channels, including segments broadcast from inside the “___weiser Studio” during Jays games. It also run large-format out-of-home promoting “___weiser,” and created a limited-run of Budweiser bottles with the “Bud” missing from the labels.

As part of the campaign’s PR component, the brand commissioned Ipsos to conduct the first-ever Budweiser Friendship Survey of 1,000 Canadian men. It found that about 70% of men see their friends less in-person as they age, with 50% saying that they see their friends once a month or less. In addition, 75% of respondents indicated that spending quality time with their close friends improves their overall well-being.

The anchor spot features interviews with men (all non-actors) talking about the importance of a male friend, when they last saw them, etc. before being surprised by that friend. “It was important to us that they had true, authentic stories… about the importance of friendship in their lives,” said Sheedy.

Budweiser has also purchased 60 seconds of advertising inventory during Sunday’s Blue Jays telecast, although it won’t run any advertising creative. Instead, it will feature a branded reminder urging men to reach out to a friend.

And we quote: “There’s no denying that as people get older—especially men—they see their friends less, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Thanks to our data, we now know that men feel spending quality time with friends improves their wellbeing, so as a leading brand in Canada, Budweiser is aiming to inspire friends nationally to make time for their buds.”—David Sheedy, senior marketing director, Budweiser Canada

Chris Powell