Michelob Ultra gets in on ’90s nostalgia with NBA Jam team-up

Linda J. Dodson

Dive Brief:

  • Michelob Ultra is encouraging fans to “Enjoy it Like It’s 1993” with a collection of in-person and online activations that recreate elements of classic arcade game NBA Jam, according to a press release. The effort is timed to the NBA All-Star 2022 weekend in Cleveland from Feb. 18-20.
  • The AB InBev brand will turn a Cleveland bar into “Boom Shaka Lakas,” an arcade bar inspired by the game’s iconic catchphrase. The bar will feature performances by rapper Fat Joe and DJ Jazzy Jeff, meet-and-greets with NBA Hall of Famers, limited-edition merchandise and more. NBA Jam-inspired cans will be available at the bar, other Cleveland locations and at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
  • Fans not in Cleveland for the game can tweet a selfie to @MichelobUltra with the hashtag #ULTRAJAM to receive a 16-bit avatar in the style of the game. The brand also launched EnjoyItLikeIts1993.com, a ’90s-styled website where fans can buy merchandise and premium items, including a custom NBA Jam x Ultra arcade console.

Dive Insight:

Michelob Ultra is getting in on the persistent ’90s nostalgia trend with a handful of in-person and online experiences themed around a beloved video game that debuted in 1993, NBA Jam. The collaboration could help the official beer partner of the NBA engage with millennial drinkers who grew up playing the game in arcades and at home, whether they are in Cleveland for the All-Star weekend or not.

Central to the effort is a pop-up arcade bar in Cleveland that finds the brand returning to experiential marketing as consumers continue to return to pre-pandemic activities, as the pandemic becomes an endemic part of everyday life. Along with serving limited edition, NBA Jam-themed cans of the brew (which will also be available at other Cleveland bars and at the arena where the game will take place), the pop-up features music by artists who were first popular in the ’90s, NBA players who are legends in both real life and the game, exclusive merchandise and appearances by the voice of NBA Jam, Tim Kitzrow, whose catchphrases are part of the game’s charm. 

To engage with fans at home, Michelob Ultra is taking to Twitter to turn selfies into NBA Jam-styled avatars, a push that could help make the effort go viral, especially as avatars gain more prominence amid interest in NFTs and the metaverse. The brand also launched a microsite, EnjoyItLikeIts1993.com, which resembles a ’90s browser experience and gives fans a chance to buy co-branded merchandise and items, from T-shirts to a custom arcade cabinet with a beer fridge. Branded merchandise has been a reliable tactic of CPG and QSR brands looking to be a part of consumer culture.

Michelob Ultra’s NBA Jam-themed efforts around the NBA All-Star weekend come days after its participation in the Super Bowl, an event where ’90s nstalgia dominated not just the ads but also the rap-focused halftime show. The Anheuser-Busch beer — second in the industry by volume of sales, according to the marketer — ran three ads during the big game to showcase its light beer, Pure Gold organic lager and hard seltzer offerings. The celeb-heavy effort featured an even gender split of athlete ambassadors, a move in line with its recent $100 million pledge to increase the visibility of women in sports.

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