When Justin Timberlake took the stage at the Grammy awards he was breathlessly introduced as “a man who was born to make music”. Belting out his new tune “Suit & Tie” in a “grammy moment that millions had been waiting for” Timberlake was cool, smooth, stylish and polished.
It was a big moment for the entertainment superstar who took a six-year break from music to focus on acting and his many marketing endeavours including his role in relaunching Myspace.
As the ad break kicked off viewers may have been forgiven for a sense of de ja vu as Timberlake, and his single featured heavily, thanks to a minute-long black and white ad for Bud Light Platinum, accompanied by “Suit & Tie”.
The ad “Platinum Night” features a hot young couple drinking Bud Light while getting ‘suited & booted’ for a night out at a club. We follow them in a cab to the club where they meet friends, cheers with Bud Light Platinum before hitting the crowd to watch none other than JT kick it on stage.
The ad, which debuted during the Grammy’s following Timberlake’s performance, carries the line “One platinum hit deserves another.”
It follows a deal inked by the Anheuser-Busch brand with the singer/musician/actor, which saw Timberlake take on the role of creative director for the brand, tasked with creative, musical and cultural 'curation' for the company.
Paul Chibe, VP-U.S. marketing at AB In-Bev said: "Justin Timberlake is one of the greatest creative minds in the entertainment industry, and his insights will help us further define Bud Light Platinum's identity in the lifestyle space.”
It’s a fascinating move and direction for a beer brand, particularly a sub-brand which branches off such an iconic American beer like the Budweiser and Bud Light brands.
While Bud Light has always played in an edgier zone than its all American full strength stable mate, the deal with Timberlake suggests the new Bud Light Platinum is looking to push into a very trendy and hip position as evidenced in its Facebook page. An easy move given the brand is relatively non-descript to begin with - Timberlake has been given an empty canvas, more or less.
It’s easy to see the strategy and value for Bud Light, the brand is targeting hard at hip young consumers – it’s all about winning over the hipsters. This is evident in the brands 6% alcohol content and the focus on style, music and a positioning as far as possible from the blokey nature of its stablemates.
Music is a well worn path for brands looking to show some edge and get down with the kids’ so to speak. Beer brands are no stranger to this positioning, UK beer brand Carling has invested heavily in music for some time, closer to home Toohey’s Extra Dry has a strong musical footprint, and Budweiser recently had a tie-up with Jay Z, which saw the rapper appear in ads for the brand. In fact AB In-Bev launched the Platinum brand at the 2012 SuperBowl with an ad featuring a Kanye West track.
As AB-In Bev’s Chibe said: "Since launching Bud Light Platinum last year, we've worked to align the brand closely with music, including leveraging tracks by Kanye West and Avicii in our first ads. Partnering with Justin as he makes his return to music brings a new level of relevance and credibility to the brand."
It’s clear that this partnership is not so much about the music, but about the credibility. Signing a massive artist like Timberlake as a creative director and giving him control of the brand’s creative, musical and cultural positioning is a huge leap of faith for the drink brand.
Timberlake is no mug, he’s earned his marketing stripes over and over. There was the creative director role for Calloway Golf, which saw him host his own golf tournament and no doubt introduce a young audience to the game. He’s also an investor in Specific Media which owns Myspace and has served as the very public face of the relaunched social network. He’s also got his own clothing label, Tequila brand and more.
It’s clear Timberlake sees the deal as more than a TV ad featuring his single too and he’s warming up to really take control and drive the brand forward.
Timberlake said of the deal: “Bud Light Platinum brings a refined, discerning aesthetic to beer that plays well with what I'm doing. I'm looking forward to not only being a part of the creative process, but in bringing other talented musicians to the forefront as well."
So we can expect to see more of his touch across the brand’s marketing platforms and by the sounds of it some nice tie-up deals between Bud Light Platinum and New Myspace.
It’s a smart move for the brand, which launched with really questionable market positioning and advertising (see videos) appointing Timberlake and effectively giving him control.
The ad nails the whole adventure of a night out with Timberlake’s single bringing a layer of sexiness and an element of authenticity that firmly positions this brand as by and for the young hip things. As a piece of brand entertainment the ad creates a cool, smooth and desirable brand positioning, it works on every level. By hitching the brand up to the hype and excitement of Timberlake’s return to music and a banging track that oozes cool, Platinum is able to bask in the reflective glory of all that is sexy, cool and smooth.
However what is slightly strange is that given the huge level of control given to Timberlake, this deal doesn’t seem to have bought exclusivity of the artist or his ‘Suit & Tie’ single.
There’s been tie-ups with Target which saw Timberlake appear in an ad for the department store. There’s also Timberlake’s own blanket marketing across Myspace, which gave users advance previews of the single.
That’s not to mention the fact that the single and videos (yes multiple video clips) are dripping with product placements and brand endorsements from Tom Ford suits – perhaps not surprisingly given the song’s title - All Saints Boots, Alexander Wang and Apple iPad.
In fact one of the clips could pass as a branded entertainment film for Tom Ford Tuxedos and clothing range as the product shots are so overpowering and really quite persuasive.
As a branded arts and entertainment exercise, “Suit & Tie” and Timberlake make for a fascinating watch & learn. Timberlake has shown how to create a strong piece of art that can serve as a brand platform that multiple brands can climb aboard without stepping on the others toes.
However, if we are to view this as a branded entertainment exercise by Bud Light, well frankly it’s just not. In Bev has done a remarkably brilliant job of signing up Timberlake and aligning him with a burgeoning brand which is no doubt certain to soar thanks to the artist’s marketing nous and creative vision. I believe this is a one to watch and we’ll see some brilliant branded arts and entertainment to come. Watch this space.
More a show of brilliant marketing moves than transmedia branded entertainment, but watch this space, it’s certainly coming.