The Frontstretch: "Kahne" The New Face of Budweiser Pull It Off? by Mike Neff -- Monday September 17, 2007

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"Kahne" The New Face of Budweiser Pull It Off?

Full Throttle · Mike Neff · Monday September 17, 2007


After it was announced that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. would not take Budweiser with him to Hendrick Motorsports next year, the search was on to find the person that could best exemplify the beer company’s image.

It didn’t take long for them to find their man.

At a press conference Tuesday, Kasey Kahne will be introduced as the front man for the most popular beer in the world. The 27-year-old from Enumclaw, Washington inherits the role of Earnhardt, as the series’ Most Popular Driver is off to hawk PepsiCo products instead for 2008 and beyond. The multi-year deal has the beer company now sharing space with Allstate, replacing Dodge Dealers as the primary sponsor of Kahne’s No. 9 car after seven years on the hood.

So, that’s right, folks; Bud is going from the everyman, all-encompassing fan base of Earnhardt to … the guy with the girls stalking him in the car insurance commercials? For those observing the sport, it’s not the likeliest match made in heaven. Don’t get me wrong; Kahne is undoubtedly one of the most marketable figures out there today. However, his placement with an alcohol sponsor seems like it might be a bit of a reach – not to mention a bit out of character – for his clean-cut, aww shucks image.

One of NASCAR’s most high-profile sponsors long before they became associated with Earnhardt, Budweiser has a long and rich history with the sport they hope to continue on with Kahne. Arriving at the Cup level in 1983 – when they sponsored Billy Hagan’s car driven by Terry Labonte – the brewery bounced around with a variety of teams before settling in with Junior back in 1999. Throughout the process, they’ve won 45 times, accumulated over 100 Top 5 finishes, and spent countless millions in advertising dollars to help promote the sport. Surprisingly, in 24 years of putting their logos on a side of a car, they have but one Nextel Cup to their name; that came in 1985, when driver Darrell Waltrip took the No. 11 to the championship driving for Junior Johnson. Still, the overall success of the sponsorship has left the company one of the most well-known to be associated with NASCAR. Other notable drivers to carry the Bud colors include Neil Bonnett, Geoffrey Bodine, Bill Elliott, Ken Schrader, Randy LaJoie, Ricky Craven, Wally Dallenbach, Jr., and of course, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

While that list is lengthy, most of these drivers shared an intriguing similarity, creating a type of persona that was associated with being a “Bud man.” A “Bud man” was the kind of guy that you would not be surprised to see sitting at the end of the bar sampling their sponsor's wares when you walked into your local watering hole. They were guys who had dirt under their fingernails, went hunting and fishing, drove their own car to the airport, and wouldn't be caught dead in an establishment with the word Salon in the name. With the exception of Northeasterners Craven and LaJoie – neither of whom drove the car for very long – every driver hired appeared to follow that template.

Until now.

Born from a different breed, Kahne doesn't seem to fall into any of those categories. More Madison Avenue than avid outdoorsman, it is hard to imagine Kahne field dressing a deer or fileting a fish. In fact, the man’s so young-looking he could easily pass for under 21 at times! Let’s just say it’s not exactly who you would be expecting to hock an alcoholic product to a group of NASCAR fans.

Now Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman? They’d be great Bud men for sure! Based on their images, they would not only kill their food to eat it, but they'd also take their cars apart on the side of the road and fix them without an instruction manual. But their sponsors are locked up long-term, and as such, Budweiser was faced with a difficult choice; go with the highest-profile young driver out there and go to a race with what you have, or find yourselves out of the sport for the first time in 24 years. Looking back, it was easy to choose the former, wasn’t it?

Of course, there is no doubt that Kahne has the same on-track ability as the others do; it’s just the off-track image is so different, sticking him together with Budweiser feels like a square peg being forced into a round hole. No question about it, this sponsor/driver marriage is going to take quite a bit of effort from the suits that make the rules to gain public acceptance of Kahne as the new face of Budweiser. He has carried a very clean cut All-American boy image from his roots in Enumclaw, WA all the way to the top level of NASCAR competition. But that’s not exactly the most exciting thing to promote when you’re making a beer commercial, and it’s going to be interesting to see if anything Kahne has believed so strongly in not doing is going to be compromised over the next year. In the meantime, this new image is going to be completely foreign to his fans, and they’ll clearly have an adjustment period.

Just don't be surprised if there is quite a bit of backlash from Bud fans around the world the first time Kahne tries to churn yak butter with Budweiser. While Junior and Kahne are both popular in their own right, both outwardly give the appearance of being very different people. Fair or unfair, the second driver listed above is not the first man you think of on tour when you think beer; and because of that, marketers are going to be working overtime to fix an obvious disconnect that shows no signs of changing right off the bat.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
Beyond the Cockpit: Alexis DeJoria On The 300 mph Women of the NHRA
A Swan’s Broken Wings Equal NASCAR’s Next Concern?
Thinkin’ Out Loud – The Off Week Season Review
Pace Laps: Swan Racing’s Future, Fast Females and Dropping Out
Sprint Cup Series Facilities Can Build Upon Fan Experience by Looking to Their Roots


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09/18/2007 05:18 AM

Kahne will do fine as the new Bud man. As you stated Bud has been around along time and they are not green in the advertising department. They knew what they were doing when they went after Kahne, they have the total marketing package in that young man. He is also a very talented driver he just happened to have a off season. Give him a chance he just might surprise you.

Robert Eastman
09/18/2007 05:40 AM

What’s totally amazing to me is that Allstate Insurance wants to be on the same car with a beer company. No other product has been more costly to auto insurance companies than alcohol.
No matter how they try to deny it, beer companies want their customers to drink as much of their product as possible, maybe even to the point of being “at” or “over the limit.” Anyone who believes otherwise is naive.
If Bud and Allstate sponsor the same car, is Allstate asking all the people with “drinking problems” to come and be insured with Allstate?
Sounds very strange to me!

09/18/2007 06:06 AM

So, if KKK wins will he drink vitamin water or Bud in victory lane?

KKK and Bud, what an odd combination.

M. B. Voelker
09/18/2007 06:26 AM

>>More Madison Avenue than avid outdoorsman, it is hard to imagine Kahne field dressing a deer or fileting a fish. <<

Kasey may be stunningly handsome, but that doesn’t negate the fact that he’s a farm boy who knows perfectly well what a gun is for and how to use it.

Marketers created an image of Dale Jr. as a “regular guy” and an “outdoorsman” when he’s actually never had a real job in his life (like he was really going to miss a meal or get kicked out for being late with the rent when he was working at his father’s garage and living on his father’s property), and is far more likely to sit on a couch holding a game controller than to sit in a tree stand holding a gun.

Marketers can do even better when the guy they are creating an image for has some reality to build the image on.

Tony would be the worst possible choice for a beer sponsor. No one would want a product message that said, “Drink our beer — you’ll gain weight, forget how to shave, and spend a lot of time trying to pry your foot out of your mouth.”

“Drink our beer — be young, gorgeous, and wildly attractive to women” is a much better message to work with.

T Barton
09/18/2007 09:02 AM

Kasey is a hunter and fisherman, he also enjoys sking, boating and wake boarding. Maybe Buds is trying to change their image as well. Lets face it the fan base of NASCAR has changed, they are younger, more athelitic, and sure, young women are more interested these day. I’m excited to see how they will market Kasey. And hey, All American boys do drink beer.

William T.
09/18/2007 11:14 AM

MB — LOL!! hahaha. I loved the Tony Stewart remark!

I totally agree with MB on this one! I would much rather see Kasey Kahne get chased around by a bunch of hot girls in a Beer commercial than look at Tony Stewart’s fat ass!

I am, however, a Tony stewart fan, but I don’t want to be reminded that what I am drinking will make me end up looking like him.

jo s.
09/18/2007 02:18 PM

looks like, budweiser,is still trying to cash in on jr. for next year!red car white #9!! pitfull, they would go with a driver, that should be sponcered,by chocolate milk!! big mistake!!!! milk!!!!! big mistake!!!!

09/18/2007 02:37 PM

As much as I like Kasey Kahne and I enjoy Budweiser’s marketing, I can’t see the two together. I think this will be one of the first big “flops” in sponsor marketing. I wish Ray would start thinking like a winner again instead of only following the money.

09/18/2007 05:14 PM

First of All, Jr. wanted to stay with Budweiser, Hendrick’s agreement with Pepsi blocked all beverages. This includes ice tea, water, soda and yes beer. Anheuser-Busch is a marketing machine. Nearly half of the beer sold in the US is an A-B product. There doing something right! Taking on Tony Stewart would not fly with Joe Gibbs racing. No Alcohol policy. Kasey is a great fit for Budweiser. Young and respectful within the NASCAR community. Allstate may rethink the sponsership piece, but I can tell you their mamangement team probably enjoys a cold Budweiser!

09/18/2007 05:45 PM

Does it really matter if we believe that the match will work? Anheuser-Busch is providing the dollars and I’m sure that their choice of drivers was made with much consideration.

09/18/2007 06:07 PM

When the rumors first began flying about Bud with Kasey, I too couldn’t see the connection – the two just didn’t seem to fit.

At DEI, the outdoor image worked great with Bass Pro Shops being another major sponsor. Who knows, maybe Anneiser-Busch will change their marketing to what use to be called the “Yuppie” crowd.

And in these days of “responsible drinking,” Budweiser and Allstate could work good together.

09/18/2007 07:11 PM

Kasey and Loren Wallace appear to be about the same age. It just looks like a strange match

09/18/2007 08:29 PM

Jo s….are you an Indiana Jones fan?

09/18/2007 11:12 PM

DW did not win a Nextel Cup. Why is it so hard for the media to say championship?

I personally see Elliott Sadler as a better choice for Bud at GEM.

jo s.
09/19/2007 11:08 AM

to roo!!!!
no! what is your point?

09/19/2007 07:31 PM

Right on Jay. Can we all say Winston Cup?
Winston Cup, Winston Cup
Winston Cup, Winston Cup
Winston Cup, Winston Cup
Winston Cup


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