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How Anheuser-Busch builds digital dominance on back of second-screen app

After initial testing last year, Anheuser-Busch?s Bud Light is betting big on a new second-screen gaming application with the goal of furthering an overall strategy to be the leading consumer packaged goods brand in digital. 

Bud Light launched an app last year called Fan Zone to keep sports fans engaged with content throughout the NFL season, culminating in a multichannel giveaway for two tickets and access to events during the Super Bowl XLVIII. Now, the brand is beginning a broader marketing campaign for National Collegiate Athletic Association?s Men?s Final Four basketball tournament in Dallas.

?Our dream is to be the No. 1 CPG brand in digital, and then optimizing things for mobile is one way of getting there,? said Lucas Herscovici, vice president of digital marketing at Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis.

?We started this two years ago ? we did some testing and based on several iterations then scaled it last year for the NFL season and then finishing with a lucky key program for the Super Bowl of last year,? he said. ?Now we are continuing working around that same app and are building on our success and extending this to other sports, and that?s why we?re using this app for March Hoops. We believe that this will continue building on our idea of being the lead CPG company in digital.?

Below, Mr. Herscovici discusses how Anheuser-Busch is evolving its second-screen gaming app after a program with the NFL last year and why the brand has developed a mobile-first content strategy.

How does this new March Madness campaign build on Bud Light?s initiatives with the NFL during Super Bowl XLVIII?
During the NFL season of last year, we were activating this through the Fan Zone app and during all season, consumers were able to play with the app and predict the results of each play and then they would win prizes and rewards to go to the Super Bowl. Within the app, you can also play with MLB games, so in baseball, you can see and gain points for that. Based on your points, you can redeem them for rewards.

It?s second-screen gaming ? those are the two trends that we?re tapping. Those were two trends we saw in mobile in the individual space that were growing. One was gaming and the other was second-screen, so we saw this start-up that had this app that proved to be exciting and we partnered with them to deliver something for our consumers and our brand, given our strength in sports.

We will continue activating this app throughout the year for other sports.

Why go the app route with these initiatives?
We want to be where our consumers spend their time, and we also need to adapt the experiences based on the media. Then we will deliver those experiences in an engaging way. 

We have challenges that are happening where people are already activating and going through the experience of playing this game with the challenge of making the ball go through into the hoop in real life, so based on that big idea, we?re bringing that idea to mobile to make it a virtual mini hoops challenge.

That experience cannot be done with a mobile-optimized site and can only be done with a mobile app, and that is why we?re integrating it into our existent app that is a multi-sports app with the objective of providing entertainment to our consumers while they?re watching live sports.

What learnings can you share about the app so far?
I can?t share specifics in terms of numbers, but I can simply say that we had huge engagement in time spent, very high ratio in regards to the repeat users, and the fact of having a lot of repeat users and a lot of people spending over 10 minutes in the app is proof that the experience was engaging and enticing for them. That?s why we?re really excited about it, and we want to keep scaling this for other sports throughout the year.

How does mobile play a role in how Anheuser-Busch activates sports and live events sponsorships?
Mobile is key to our success. We want to be the No. 1 CPG company in digital, and mobile is the area where it?s growing the most in regards to time spent by a consumer. That?s why we?re overinvesting in mobile in regards to other advertisers. 

When we do social media, for example, on Facebook or Twitter or even any display, we try to overindex and put a much stronger emphasis on mobile. 

For example, any piece of content, any Web site or any experience that is developed, I ask for any experience to be shown to me on how it will look like on mobile. I don?t approve Web sites on desktops ? I approve Web sites on mobile first, and the same thing applies to content on social media, so [with] Facebook posts, I want to see how they look on mobile.

I think that?s the mindset that my team has, and we as an organization are putting big efforts in mobile to be able to be true leaders in that area.

What do you see as being the next big mobile opportunity for Anheuser-Busch?
I think the next big thing is always focusing on big ideas and focusing on making sure whatever ideas we work with our agencies and teams on are delivering something that is exciting and entertaining that helps our brand.

We?re constantly analyzing trends and start-ups that do things in the mobile space. We always want to put business needs first before assessing anything. We constantly see companies and start-ups that are doing super exciting things in the mobile area, but we will be leveraging them starting first with the idea and seeing how that technology or new device can fit within our strategy.

The idea is that with our office in California, we say we?re matchmakers between the business needs and the trends and the innovation that we see in the Valley. We analyze what our brands need based on briefs, challenges and creative ideas, and then we go and look for solutions.

A good example is this one that we?re talking about [with the Fan Zone app] that started two years ago with a specific idea on how to activate sports considering two trends but building on an idea that was related to Bud Light. We did experimentation there, and we?re evolving it based on learnings.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York