City gov embraced Bud Light’s ‘Philly Philly Day’ and got nothing in return

Philadelphia basically sold out to a beer brand.

Bud Light's skywriting during the Eagles Super Bowl parade

Bud Light's skywriting during the Eagles Super Bowl parade

Mark Dent
mark

At times, the Eagles Super Bowl parade felt like a giant Bud Light commercial.

The second-most popular chant heard Thursday, after the ubiquitous E-A-G-L-E-S, was easily “Philly, Philly” — the beer brand’s Eagles-inspired transliteration of its viral “Dilly, Dilly” catchphrase.

The slogan was as inescapable among the parade’s crowds as the smell of weed. And if you looked up in the sky from Center City as the team made its way up Broad Street, you would’ve seen another reminder the city had been invaded by Bud Light. On at least two occasions, a skywriting drone penned variations on the illy-tastic jingle above attendees.

Bud Light all but ensured it would have a large presence at the parade by making good on its promise to offensive tackle Lane Johnson and offering free beers at about two dozen bars near the route. But the foreign-owned brand’s prominence at the festivities was also due to a boost from Philadelphia officials.

The city played along with the brewing giant’s marketing opportunity. For free.

Wednesday, in City Council quarters, a town crier from Bud Light stood next council members Mark Squilla and Bill Greenlee, talking about the beer. “Thy triumph in battle hath inspired the King,” declared the medieval reenactor. “Thusly he hath made an alliance with thy Lord Mayor Jim Kenney…”

The brand ambassador’s appearance at municipal chambers was hyped by an advance press release sent from the City Representative’s office. The first email announcement was titled: “Photo Opportunity: Philadelphia Proclaims ‘Philly Philly Day’ at City Hall.” Around 20 minutes later, an altered email showed up. It read in more passive fashion: “Philadelphia Receives ‘Philly Philly Day’ Proclamation at City Hall.”

With the city’s approval, Bud Light had anointed parade day “Philly Philly Day.”

And for endorsing this marketing takeover, Philadelphia got nothing in return

According to the Mayor’s Office, there was no quid quo pro for the reenactor’s appearance. The Mayor’s Office was also not aware of any donation or contribution from Bud Light or parent company AB InBev to any city fund or city-boosting nonprofit.

A spokesperson said the city’s involvement with “Philly Philly Day” did not count as an official citation and that the city went along in part to better promote responsible drinking. The decree did include a nod to safety toward the end, with a note on how Philadelphians could get a free Lyft ride with a promotional code.

“There wasn’t any concern over free publicity [for Bud Light],” said Ajeenah Amir, City Deputy Communications Director. “We were getting publicity; they were getting publicity. It wasn’t a concern we would be giving them more than they would already have.”

Though “Philly Philly Day” may not have been an official city holiday, Bud Light did tweet out the city’s endorsement:

And plenty of fans went along with made-up designation.

 

Bud Light’s Philadelphia campaign began prior to the NFC and AFC Championships, when it released a commercial for each of the four remaining NFL teams, including its “Philly Philly” ad.

Before the Super Bowl, Peter Madden, president/CEO of the local advertising firm Agile Cat, wrote for the ad industry website The Drum that Bud Light had a “promotional perfect storm in Philadelphia,” hinting at its opportunity to capitalize in the city.

“Whatever the cost is to fulfill this sudsy fantasy,” he wrote, “they’ll surely benefit 10x fold with impressions and awareness – if they play their cards right.”

He continued, writing that the beverage company should go all-out and call the celebration “Philly Philly Day”: “Bud Light should spend whatever it takes to own this town the day of the parade.”

Bud Light apparently listened. The brand paid for skywriting, the beers given out at local bars on Thursday and rebates for 6-packs for Philly folks who didn’t get a freebie on parade day. Just not for the City Hall proclamation.

A spokesperson for ABInBev did not return an email seeking comment.

Philadelphia has given itself to corporate interests before. Just last year, the NFL draped giant banners on the east, west and south sides of City Hall for the draft for nearly the entire month of April. Just before the draft began, the NFL swapped out country flags on the Parkway for NFL team flags. But the NFL kicked in big bucks, pouring $20 million in direct spending to pay for the festivities.

This time Philly didn’t get anything in return. Well, except a free batch of cheap beer.

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