A fresh angle to legitimize beer pong?

By Lisa Harder, Associate Media Director @NYCA

Is Anheuser-Busch’s sponsorship of Hard Bat Ping Pong just another attempt to corner the beer pong market?


Back in 2005 the company called off its promotion of “Bud Pong,” a game created by the brewery eerily similar to the ever popular beer pong but with one key difference – it was supposed to be played with water. The Bud Pong campaign launched complete with branded tables, balls and glasses to distributors in 47 markets, several in college towns. The distributors helped organize tournaments and Anheuser-Busch even explored trade marking the name. When executives found Bud Pong was being played improperly – with beer – all the fun came to a screeching halt. Drinking games will always be played with the cheapest, chuggable beer on the market. Until the product changes, Bud will continue to be a natural choice to fill those Solo cups.

Now, four years later, Anheuser-Busch is hoping that we have all forgotten about the failed campaign and is hoping to revive a more family friendly pastime as the lead sponsor of the Bud Light Hard Bat Ping Pong tournament. The brewery has gone on record as saying “This is about the residual goodwill we all feel for the better times we grew up with. This conjures up family.” The Bud Light Hard Bat Ping Pong tournament is intended to reach drinkers at the grass roots level and at the same time emphasize on the fun angle of the brand.

Executives behind the project believe that ping pong will be an emerging trend in this time of recession when the country nostalgic for family values and simpler times.

Do they believe ping pong is the next pastime to sweep the nation or is Hard Bat the more politically correct way to reach beer-pongers? I would argue the latter.

A good sponsorship should not only tap into the passion of the target audience but also resonate with the brand image. Bud Pong was an obvious choice based on consumer insight, but a misstep for a brand which attempts to promote responsible drinking. On the other hand, Hard Bat may conjure up fond memories of more wholesome times, but among who? I can’t help but wonder if the Bud Pong backlash pushed marketers of the brewery too far in the opposite direction. Where they once forgot about the brand, they may have now forgotten their audience.

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