Unpacking the Plan Behind Michelob Ultra's Game Changers

Highlights from Clio's 2023 Sports Marketing Summit

Great work always starts with "living the strategy," according to FCB's Danilo Boer and Alex Abrantes.

The pair—who respectively serve as the agency's global creative partner and N.Y. group creative director—drove home that point yesterday in NYC at State of Play: the 2023 Clio Sports Marketing Summit. They discussed Michelob Ultra's award-winning campaigns at the event.

Ultra's mission, they stressed, is to remind customers to prioritize joy, a position articulated by the beer brand's tagline, "It's Only Worth It If You Enjoy It." In other words, "You don't need to choose between having an active lifestyle and actually enjoying a beer," Abrantes said.

"The first time we brought this [tagline] to life in a big, technology-driven, innovation way was when Covid shut down the world, including the NBA, and we brought joy center court," Boer said.

Boer was referring to "Courtside," which topped the 2021 Clio Sports competition with four Grand awards.

The initiative allowed users to virtually attend NBA games in 2020 when the league rebooted its season without spectators in the stands. Through "Courtside," fans penetrated the NBA Bubble through Microsoft's A.I.-driven Together Mode and found themselves seated near notables like Shaq and Barack Obama.

More recently, the team found a clever way to link Ultra's mantra and tennis legend John McEnroe. They did so in "McEnroe vs. McEnroe," a one-of-a-kind match mixing IRL and virtual elements as the Hall of Famer played younger versions of himself in an event aired on ESPN networks.

"That was a very fun project. It was complicated and hard to pull off. But somehow we did it," Boer said.

One of the most time-consuming parts of the project was teaching the robots how to play, and McEnroe didn't have enough time to invest in doing that. Thankfully, the team was working on the project in Los Angeles, where talented stand-ins abound.

"We found a tennis pro that could be there like in 30 minutes and play with us" to help the tech learn what moves to make during the match," Boer said. "But, of course, that takes money, it takes time. These dramatic moments happen a lot, and our clients have been amazing. Instead of being mad at us, [they] just say, 'Let’s solve it together.'" The work recently won a pair of Grand Clios plus a Sports Emmy.

Near the end of the "Unpacking the Thinking Behind Michelob Ultra's Award-Winning Work" panel, Boer summed up his advice for anyone making advertising a career:

"Go out, live your client's strategy. Find a cultural moment to tap into. Discover how to bring this to life in a very innovative way with the best partner you can find. And when shit hits the fan, don't give up."

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