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Budweiser Enters Reality TV Realm

'The Big Time' will offer wish fulfillment
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Budweiser is getting into the reality TV game with an hour-long show that will leverage the brand's relationships with sports leagues and celebrities to help young adults achieve their dreams.

Each episode will feature four contestants with the same dream, such as racing against a Nascar driver. Professionals in a given field will mentor the contestants, test their skills, and ultimately select one to fulfill a dream.

Bud United Presents: The Big Time is at the casting stage, with the shooting of 10 episodes to begin this summer. Anheuser-Busch InBev is already shopping the project to TV networks but has yet strike a deal. The first episodes won’t be ready until early 2012.

The beer and its logo will appear in the show, when appropriate. For example, contestants may drink Bud when they gather to reflect on a day of skills testing, said executive producer Evan Weinstein. Beyond product placement, however, Budweiser seeks to extend its global brand platform of celebrating and anticipating great times to come, according to Jason Warner, global vp of Budweiser.

The first example of that strategy was Bud House, a Web-based reality show that Budweiser (and Weinstein) produced last year around the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament. (Thirty-two fans from around the world lived together in South Africa, each representing a country participating in the World Cup.) Next came Anomaly’s "Grab some Buds" ad campaign, which broke in September and remains on air.

Now, with The Big Time—which Anomaly conceived as well and @radical.media will produce—the brewer shifts its focus to what Warner described as “sticky engagement marketing.”
"Budweiser sits very comfortably in that space of camaraderie, celebrity, and appreciation and enjoyment of a great thing," Warner said. "There are always a lot of natural, social worlds for beer."
Weinstein, best known for his work on The Amazing Race, expects the clout of the Bud brand to expand the boundaries of wish fulfillment in reality TV. "There have been other shows that have tried to do wish fulfillment in the past and have never been able to do it on the grand scale that we’re going to be doing it because they’ve never had the access to the places," Weinstein said. "In fact, a lot of these places that we have access to because of Budweiser have routinely said 'No' to reality shows."

Bud's sports sponsorships alone cut across professional baseball, football, basketball, soccer, hockey, and the Olympics. The brand also has associations with the U.S. military, music festivals, and celebrities such chef Hubert Keller and Nascar driver Kevin Harvick.

The core target for the show are 23-to-30-year-olds, though, like the beer, it will likely appeal to a broad age range. An alcohol brand sponsoring a reality show represents virgin territory and, as such, will test the broadcast time boundaries of major networks that can't be seen as marketing beer to minors. After all, they still answer to the FCC, unlike their cable brethren.

Warner shrugged off such concerns, however, noting discussions with a "number of network partners." Besides, he added, "The purpose of the show is not to promote consumption."