Inside BudX Hotel, Karaoke and Hopefully 1 Billion Impressions

Budweiser takeover invites 200 influencers to Miami

Influencers posed in front of branded wallpaper backdrops at the BudX Hotel.
Influencers posed in front of branded wallpaper backdrops at the BudX Hotel. Budweiser
Headshot of Ian Zelaya

Key insights:

While multiple brands chose to produce Super Bowl activations in Miami instead of airing ads on Sunday, Budweiser has opted for both as part of its Big Game marketing strategy.

Along with the brand’s patriotic Super Bowl ad, Budweiser opened the BudX Hotel, a three-day experience in Miami that filled the Nautilus by Arlo hotel in South Beach with about 200 influencers. The takeover is an extension of BudX, the brand’s global experiential series in which Budweiser collaborates with influencers and tastemakers—or, in the brand’s terms, “Kings of Culture”—to create branded content.

Budweiser launched the BudX program with music media company Mixmag in 2019, bringing influencer-focused music events to cities including Mumbai, Tokyo and Amsterdam last year. The brand’s takeover in South Beach is the first BudX event in the U.S.

Richard Oppy, vp of global brands at AB InBev, said bringing the program to the U.S. around the Super Bowl “provides a great opportunity for creators to demonstrate their skillset and their capabilities on a big stage. And they’ll share that content with their fans.”

Budweiser rebranded the Nautilus by Arlo hotel for three days.

Hotel takeovers, an ongoing experiential marketing trend, are a massive investment and undertaking for brands that can provide a major payoff. Taco Bell’s first overnight hotel activation in 2019 had a similar concept to BudX Hotel, with the five-day event garnering 4.4 billion impressions for the brand.

For the BudX Hotel, which opened Friday and runs through Sunday, the brand invited influencers from 20 countries across art, fashion, lifestyle and music. Each influencer was required to have around 1 million followers, according to sports and entertainment agency Octagon, which worked with Budweiser on the event’s production. Budweiser also worked with agencies Deutsch, Virtue and Wink to conceptualize the event and choose influencers they determined would have the most social media impact and synergy with the brand.

Those invited include American photographer and skateboarder Atiba Jefferson, Indian rapper Divine, Brazilian screenwriter and director KondZilla and Russian DJ Karina Istomina.

The hotel is heavily branded with design elements such as Miami-themed wallpaper, branded furniture and themed bedding in guest rooms. The hotel also includes photo booths, a pop-up recording studio, a branded Chevrolet and a custom graffiti mural.

The brand hoped to inspire more content with branded entertainment including concerts by artists such as Halsey, Black Eyed Peas, De La Soul and Diplo. Budweiser partnered with digital media brand One37pm—owned by Gary Vaynerchuk’s Gallery Media Group—and pro-basketball star Dwyane Wade to host a Masters of the Mic karaoke competition on Saturday. The event pit guests against each other to perform karaoke in front of a panel of celebrity judges.

Additionally, Budweiser teamed up with Gillette to host a pop-up barbershop for guests throughout the weekend. Celebrity barbers like Rich Mendoza and Mark Marrero offered grooming services.

Oppy said the brand wanted these curated events to lead content collaborations between celebrities and the invited influencers.

“We’re creating a platform for influencers to come and create their own content,” he said. “It will help their brand and will reinforce the values Budweiser stands for.”

Budweiser provided guests with a welcome box containing a SelfieBud bottle.

The brand also used the event to debut the Budweiser SelfieBud—a special edition label designed as a mirror image logo, which flips to the actual logo when guests take selfies on apps like Instagram and Snapchat. The brand worked with agency Jones Knowles Ritchie to design the bottles.

“SelfieBud is the first beer in history made for the selfie generation,” said Lisa Smith, executive creative director, Jones Knowles Ritchie. “Brands spend millions of dollars to look their best on social media, yet there are still many untapped opportunities to innovate with identity and design to make the most impact on these platforms. If phone cameras can flip our beloved brand logos correctly, why shouldn’t our social media apps?”

The BudX Hotel, which Oppy said had been in the works since last year’s Super Bowl, isn’t the brand’s first hotel takeover tied to a sporting event. For the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, Budweiser rebranded the InterContinental Hotel in Moscow to feature a similar VIP atmosphere.

Oppy said the brand plans to mainly measure the event’s success through impressions. The brand is working with its internal agency Draftline to monitor the created content, the number of account tags and what’s gaining traction organically during the weekend.

Oppy said Budweiser expected “well over 1 billion impressions” and “more than 1,000 pieces of content” from the weekend. The brand also boosted some of the content on the Budweiser and BudX Instagram accounts.

“The event should give us a positive ROI. I’m expecting we’ll get a payback on the event,” he said, noting the brand will also considering using content from the weekend for future marketing efforts throughout 2020.

Depending on the event’s success, Budweiser plans to use the event as a model for future Super Bowl activations in terms of scale. The brand also sees the takeover as a building block for its influencer partnership strategy, according to Oppy.

While Budweiser hopes BudX will be the buzziest experience on Super Bowl weekend, it has some competition from other AB InBev brands. Bud Light is letting fans choose which of its Post Malone spots will air Sunday and kicked off its second annual Super Bowl Music Fest with headliners including DJ Khaled, DaBaby and Megan Thee Stallion. Stella Artois, which isn’t airing a Big Game ad, is bringing culinary events, music and celebrity panels to the Wharf Miami with a free pop-up inspired by European ports.

For all the latest Super Bowl advertising news—who’s in, who’s out, teasers, full ads and more—check out Adweek’s Super Bowl 2020 Ad Tracker. And join us on the evening of Feb. 2 for the best in-game coverage of the commercials anywhere. Ian Zelaya is an Adweek reporter covering how brands engage with consumers in the modern world, ranging from experiential marketing and social media to email marketing and customer experience.