Black Restaurateurs Are the Stars of Bud Light’s New Documentary-Style Ads

The spots, directed by Jason Harper, will air during Thursday Night Football

Beckham's B&M Bar-B-Que is the first of five businesses the campaign will highlight. Bud Light

In a new series of ads that feel more like mini documentaries, Bud Light is telling the stories of Black-owned restaurants in five different cities that are hosting Thursday Night Football games during this NFL season.

Shot on 16mm film and in a single take for the shortest, 15-second cut, the first installment takes viewers inside a family-owned barbecue joint in Cleveland. Beckham’s B&M Bar-B-Que was established in 1958 by Eddie Beckham, a chef from Georgia who specialized in Southern cuisine. The restaurant’s three locations are now run by his son, Greg Beckham.

“My dad instilled in me, ‘You take care of the community, and they’ll take care of you,'” Beckham explains in the spot. “He taught me: ‘You cook with love, man, you cook from your heart.'”

Beckham’s B&M Bar-B-Que, like all Black-owned restaurants, is bearing a disproportionately heavy burden due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Black community has been hit unduly hard by the disease itself, and the restaurant industry continues to suffer from the economic impact of the crisis even after making it through the uncertainty of lockdowns.

The Bud Light campaign aims to create space for a different story, highlighting the history, craft and heart of these businesses and their communities while providing them publicity during a critical time.

“It’s meant to accomplish that one goal, just make people pause and enter very quickly into a moment of reflection and get to know some of these Black restaurant owners,” said Jason Harper, the filmmaker and documentarian who’s directing the campaign.

Harper, who was honored as part of Adweek’s Creative 100 last year, sees the opportunity to tell these stories on a platform as big as Bud Light’s as something very important right now, especially given the way the Black Lives Matter movement continues to impact and reshape culture into something more equitable and just.

“I am personally of the belief that in order to bring about the sort of social change that we need to see, that change has to come about culturally,” Harper said. The “drivers of culture” in today’s world are big brands, he noted, and as a result, a lot of that progress toward social change happens in advertising.

This campaign is just a small piece of what Harper sees as a much broader mission to bring dignity and justice to the Black community, but the opportunity to continue that work with a megaphone as big as Bud Light’s, during a national NFL broadcast, is a step in the right direction.

There’ll be four more businesses highlighted as part of the campaign—the next one is a multigenerational, family-owned bakery in Harlem, and there’ll be a couple more in the Midwest, Harper said, though details are still under wraps.

“We just shot the second one on Monday, and it’s just, oh, it kills you. It’s incredible what they’ve done; these are real people—the best kind of people to tell stories about, just the salt of the Earth,” Harper said. “I couldn’t be prouder to be a very small part of what is a much bigger story.”

@klundster Kathryn Lundstrom is Adweek's breaking news reporter based in Austin.