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How Michelob Ultra used real-time marketing to capitalize on a viral moment

New content + merch drops in 48 hours flat

Hold my beer, but don’t hold Mark Radetic’s beer.

The golf enthusiast was causally minding his own, watching Tiger Woods compete in the PGA championships, nursing a beer, enjoying the sunshine—which is why he went viral.

No one knew who Radetic was then—just the lone guy who didn’t grab his phone to snap a pic for the ‘gram. Then the photo went viral & he became “Beer Guy.”

More importantly for Michelob ULTRA, that beer can is distinctive & noticeable. As if that wasn’t a lucky enough break, the brand had just launched a new campaign with the “it’s only worth it if you enjoy it” line. Someone on the Michelob team must’ve helped a sweet old lady across the street to earn this karmic gift of an organic moment.

That’s when the Michelob team and Wieden + Kennedy jumped into action for everyone’s favorite kind of social: real-time content.

Two-day shipping

Twitter trends like this burn bright, then fizzle fast. For Michelob to leverage the moment, the branded needed to pump out content fast.

Within 48 hours, the social team created a cinemagraph-style video out of the original photo with some clever copywriting atop—it immediately became their most-shared social post in over a year.

I love the ingenuity here. I’ve worked at big brands that would’ve thrown crazy brainstorms, tried to fly the guy in for some big expensive shoot, and totally miss the moment as we set up production. Meanwhile Michelob found a clever creative solve to make the original photo more dynamic—probably took a designer a half day at most, and likely generated better results by highlighting the original viral photo so clearly.

Merch! Merch! Merch!

One social post does not make a campaign, though. Gotta have a handful of touchpoints to fully flesh out the bit. And a legend like Beer Guy? You can’t not give him a t-shirt.

What I really love about the merch move—it actually made the brand money. In just 24 hours, these tees became Anheuser-Busch’s #1 grossing merch item of 2022. I’ve long thought smart social + product gags are an underutilized way to bring in actual $$$ to brands—it’s worth wondering how you could pull this off at your shop.

More beer for Beer Guy

When an unsuspecting person becomes an unofficial brand icon, you have to reward them well (see: Ocean Spray buying Doggface a truck). What better way to reward Mark for living in the moment than giving him an encore?

Keeping with the campaign’s speedy delivery, Michelob got Mark on a plane to the next PGA tour stop just 6 days later—he posed for pics, hung out with fans, and continued his legacy as the embodiment of It’s Only Worth It If You Enjoy It.

The Results

A truly organic viral moment + a smart brand campaign to keep the fire burning earned some great numbers for Michelob Ultra.

  • 4.9 million earned media impressions

  • 663k organic video views

  • 30k organic social mentions

Maybe the best number, though: $500. That’s all they spent, and it was all to get Mark a plane + a room to enjoy another golf day.