A-B Swims with Social Net to Stem Tide of Hard Liquor

As part of its “Here’s to Beer” campaign to defend the brew’s share of nightclub billings from a menacing tide of wine and hard liquor, Anheuser-Busch has created a tight integration with social net MingleNow.

A-B’s “Clink” initiative with online ad firm BlueLithium, which incubated MingleNow, provides for “Here’s to Beer” branding throughout the site, complete with a photo-sharing mechanism to drive engagement. Despite the fact the brewing industry campaign is entirely subsidized by Anheuser-Busch, the company’s own brand won’t dominate the sponsorship.

MingleNow users have been invited to upload photos of themselves drinking beer in social settings. They can upload their photos to a general “Clink” album or to smaller group albums, including those organized by region. Site users can vote on favorite photos, and contests throughout the year will award points based on those votes. These can be exchanged for prizes.

“MingleNow came to us when they were still in the developmental stage,” said Tom Shipley, A-B’s director of global industry development. He said the overture came as the brewer was trying to decide, “How are we going to get into social networking in a way that’s not typical banner ad or homepage takeover?”

Another factor in picking MingleNow was the site’s focus on 21- to 35-year-old nightclub demographic — the same group “Here’s to Beer” is targeting. Shipley said that helped reduce the brewer’s fear of accusations that it’s targeting minors. The company faced such charges as recently as two weeks ago, when the Attorneys General of 21 states sent a letter to A-B stating the company’s new Bud.tv broadband site was too accessible to underage viewers.

BlueLithium is promoting its young social network through the now-standard methods of viral and guerilla marketing. During the first phase of launch, the company has set teams into nightclubs to talk up the service. A-B will also lend promotional support during the site’s early days via existing distribution relationships and sports sponsorships.

MingleNow says it recorded 50,000 unique visitors in January and approximately 300,000 in February.

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