Event marketing--where you pull off a massive promotion tied to something that ll happen--can get tricky to pull off. Just ask Anheuser-Busch, which temporarily turned Crested Butte, Colorado into the town of "Whatever" for a giant party. Many residents weren't happy with negotiations between the company and town council that were secret and there was some heavy social media pushback that, in part, made fun of Bud products.
If that went with mixed reviews, how is a tie-in to a "Storm Area 51" event that has the potential to turn into a disaster? For either Bud Light or, another brand deciding to take part, Arby's, this could be campy promotion fun or something dark.
In case you hadn't heard, someone started a joke Facebook event about invading Area 51, the highly secretive military base where, so the claims go, alien relics, technology, and maybe even bodies are storied.
Secretive military base as in a highly protected facility with armed troops that are trained to keep people out and who might have little compunction about shooting after adequate warnings.
As in a situation that won't be under the design or control of the companies that are trying to ride the event's coattails. Arby's created a cross-country tour ending at the Alien Research Center in Nevada, which hopefully is a bit better set up for crowds. There's supposed to be music, food trucks, art, and "Alien-inspired retailers."
Bud Light is sponsoring some kind of to-do in downtown Las Vegas on the evening of September 19 to welcome the coming grand invasion. Plus, there's an online site for alien-themed gear.
Did I mention that 2.1 million said on Facebook that they'd attend? Of course, not that many will. But it suggests that thousands could potentially show up in the desert.
The nearest town, Rachel, Nevada, has a population of 52. Did anyone order water trucks, porta-potties, food, tents, or all the other things a huge group might need? My guess is ... no.
So, on one hand you have two major brands in food and beverage setting up their parties for any who are interested. On the other, you have potentially a whole lot of people marching into the desert because they want to see an alien and instead may come face-to-face with homegrown dangerous people.
I can think of a few movies that might be better choices.
At best, this plays like a good lightweight marketing concept. If anything happens to anyone, it's going to create a giant stain that won't disappear.
Everything may work out fine. Or not. Let's hope they do for everyone's sake.