Anheuser-Busch is teeing up a promotion that combines Natural Light, its self-proclaimed “official beer of keeping it real and letting things just happen,” with the staid and way-beyond-overly-traditional Master’s golf tournament and the anything-but-staid-and-traditional classic golf flick “Caddyshack” — all to encourage millennials to be the beer, be the beer, be the beer.
It’s called “Natty Shack,” and it's trying to tap into memories of the 1980 cult classic that featured Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield and a very pesky gopher.
On April 7 and 8, Natural Light officials plan to turn a parking lot outside Augusta National Golf Club, the home of the Masters, into a decidedly down-market den filled with music and games and a menu full of Southern staples, including a pig roast, a low-country shrimp boil and, of course, lots of cold Natural Light on tap.
Don’t even think of confusing it with the corporate tent filled with well-heeled clients who will be clinking glasses on the other side of the Augusta National gates during the April 6-9 Masters.
“Natty Shack will put its unique spin on hospitality to host hundreds of Natural Light drinkers who flock to Augusta each year,” Nick Kelly, director of experiential marketing for the beer’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch, told Fox News. “It will take on the look and feel of a college tailgating setting with a Natty twist.”
Natural Light is even sponsoring a millennial golfer, 25-year-old Smylie Kaufman, who should feel right at home in the Southern setting. Kaufman, who was born in Alabama and played golf for Louisiana State University, says you’ll find him hanging with his friends and fans at the Natty Shack if he doesn’t qualify for the Masters.
The Natty Shack campaign is part of Natural Light’s strategy to gain cachet with its target audience, 21- to 27-year-olds, and to recapture lost market share. Natural Light’s total sales volume declined by 26 percent and its market share dropped from 4.4 percent to 3.2 percent from 2010 through 2015, according to the market research firm Euromonitor International.
Eric Penicka, a research analyst there, says he’s skeptical that Natty Shack will stop the slide.
“The issue is, the outreach of an event like this is pretty limited in scope, and I’d say in a lot of ways out of touch with the entire atmosphere and environment golf caters to,” Penicka said.
“Even if targeted towards millennials, it seems unlikely to work well.”
Robert Ottenstein, global beverage analyst with EvercoreISI, a New York-based equity research firm, shares Penicka’s skepticism.
He said he likes the idea-- and the spirit of Natty Shack-- but he’s concerned that Natural Light is competing against Anheuser-Busch’s other light beers.
“The risk is you cannibalize Mich ULTRA or Bud Light that sell at a higher price point, so it’s not a good trade,” Ottenstein said.
Michelob ULTRA has been a bright spot among domestic brews, increasing sales and market share significantly over the past five years while domestic non-craft beers have largely declined. But Kelly says Anheuser-Busch isn't concerned about the intramural competition.
“Michelob ULTRA is and continues to be the official beer of the PGA TOUR, and that is a space that it lives in and caters to,” he said. “The Natty Shack is simply Natural Light’s take on golf’s greatest tournament.”
Ottenstein predicts a boost for the beer as its parent company pours more money into promotions like Natty Shack. “The economy beers have not received much marketing for a number of years, and Bud is starting to put more money behind them…. I think if you put more advertising and marketing behind a brand like Natural Light, it will help the brand.”
The slobs beat the snobs in “Caddyshack,” thanks to some pyrotechnics from greenskeeper Carl Spackler, played by Bill Murray. Natty Shack may not get Natty Light onto the green with one swing, but it may give it some firepower to get out of the rough.
Or as Jean Paul Sartre never said — Gopher it.