By Barry Janoff
March 31, 2014: Fresh off its effort to have MLB's Opening Day declared a National Holiday — which did not succeed on a legal basis but was a big hit on promotional and social media platforms — Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser has unveiled a commercial that the coming season by highlighting the game's past.
"Always There" retraces nearly 100 years of baseball history, including the Boston Red Sox selling Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1920, Lou Gehrig's classic farewell speech in 1939 to Willie Mays' back-to-the-plate catch while running full speed to the outfield wall in the Polo Grounds during Game 1 of 1954 World Series against the Cleveland Indians, Hank Aaron breaking Ruth's career home run record in 1974 (since broken by Barry Bonds) and Cal Ripken Jr. topping Gehrig's all-time consecutive games played mark.
Most of the 30-second spot is played out in black-and-while, which then morphs to grainy color for Aaron's achievement and finally to quality color for Ripken and then living color for the final shot, which sees a fan returning to his seat in Busch Stadium in St. Louis with a Bud in his hand to watch a game in 2014.
The action is also played out via the evolution of media, from a newspaper headline that declares, "Yankees Buy Ruth and Home Run Bat for Over $100,000" (it was actually $125,000 in cash and $300,000 in loans, according to baseball historians) to fans listening to Gehrig saying over the radio, "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth, to a crowd in a bar watching Mays on a small black-and-white TV, Aaron's feat on a slightly larger TV but one that shows the action in color and then Ripen Jr. rounding the field on Sept. 6, 1995 in Oriole Park at Camden Yards after his iconic record-setting game (2,131 games) with a clarity that makes it seem as if we are in the stands watching him in person. (Ripken eventually went on to play in 2,632 consecutive games.)
The spot, from Anomaly, New York, broke over the weekend and will play during MLB games across broadcast partners. (See the full spot here.)
Budweiser, the official beer of MLB as well as some 20 of its teams, has been making waves over the past few weeks via a campaign to have Opening Day declared a National Holiday by the White House. The multi-layered effort, fronted by Hall of Famers and former St. Louis Cardinal Ozzie Smith, encompassed TV, radio, POP, Smith traveling to various cities with the Budweiser Clydesdales, Internet and social media as Anheuer-Busch sought to get 100,000 signatures on a petition, the magic number needed to send the proposal on to the White House.
The TV spot received more than one million views on YouTube (see it here.)
A celebratory spot then ran, with Smith stating,"We did it, America. Over 100,000 signatures (102,919 to be exact before the petition was closed). The White House has heard us. Let's make Opening Day a holiday."
This past Friday (March 28), the petition, which was housed on the official White House's "We the People” Web site, where petitions are placed for public review and signing, the White House notified MLB and the brewer that Opening Day would not become a National Holiday, at least this year.
The news came via a letter on the "We the People" site from Josh Earnest, Principal Deputy Press Secretary.
"For more than a century, American presidents have celebrated baseball's Opening Day — from President William Taft's 1910 first pitch from the stands, to President Obama toeing the rubber at Nationals Park in 2010.
"Opening Day signals a new beginning, not only for the 30 Major League Baseball teams playing for their shot at a title, but for the millions of fans who will follow the 162-game journey — from “Play ball!” through the last out. That includes President Obama, who will be rooting for his White Sox to go all the way.
"While we are sympathetic to your pitch to make Opening Day a national holiday, it's a little outside our strike zone: creating permanent federal holidays is traditionally the purview of Congress. So, it's up to the men and women on Capitol Hill to decide whether to swing at this pitch.
"To celebrate Opening Day, we'll be honoring the 2013 World Series champions, the Boston Red Sox, here at the White House on Tuesday (April 1).
"Meanwhile, I'll spend that day visualizing what it would be like to welcome my 2014 World Series Champion Kansas City Royals to the White House. That is, after all, the best part of Opening Day: every team is tied for first place and poised to make a run at the Fall Classic.
"Thanks again for your petition and your participation in We the People."
None the less, Budweiser got its message out to more than 56,000 followers on Twitter as well as social media sites Facebook and Instagram. Former MLB players also helped to usher in the new season with Bud by ringing the Opening Day bell at NYSE Euronext, a leading global operator of financial markets and provider of innovative trading technologies. The roster included Bernie Williams, John Franco, Jack Morris and Jeff Nelson.
"Opening Day is an unofficial National Holiday despite what happens with the petition," said Tim Brosnan, evp-business for MLB. "Our challenge is to make Opening Day bigger and better every year. And when you look at the response that the campaign received, that talks about how popular the game is and how marketing partners can be creative in order to reach fans."
Q&A: MLB Walks Down The Aisle With Marketing Partners, Brings The Diamond
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