The Impact of Authenticity In Corporate Partnerships


While Tiger Woods’ return to golf major championship winner grabbed many of the recent headlines, Dwayne Wade’s departure from the NBA may have been the more compelling corporate partnership activation. More specifically, Anheuser-Busch’s #ThisBudsFor3 campaign featuring Wade demonstrates the power of authenticity in connecting with audiences through corporate partnerships.

The most visible element of this campaign is a video produced by VaynerMedia and best described by Budweiser. From the company’s Twitter account, “To celebrate his #OneLastDance, @DwyaneWade has been swapping jerseys with NBA legends. Before his final season ended, we surprised him with three more. Watch how it all unfolds. #ThisBudsFor3.”

The video then proceeds to show people that Wade has had significant impacts upon off the court ranging from the sister of a victim of the Parkland school shooting to someone that received a scholarship funded by Wade to his own mother. In the end, Wade’s mother talks about the impact her son had on her life, particularly after she was released from prison by stating, “I am more proud of the man you have become than the basketball player. You are bigger than basketball.”

We used B6A’s Media Analysis Platform and Social Sentiment Analysis Platform to evaluate the effectiveness of the campaign by examining the most valuable posts across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. We specifically looked at owned and earned accounts for value, reach, and sentiment for video, image, and text content to understand the wholistic value of the campaign and are displaying the results from our Partnership Scoreboard below. 

Screenshot at Apr 17 12-12-40.png

The metrics for the campaign are impressive, but the one that stands out the most is likely the least surprising. B6A’s sentiment scores range from -100.0% to 100.0%. Earned media posts (i.e. posts not from Budweiser accounts) had an average sentiment score of 69.6%. As context, most brands typically have sentiment scores ranging from 0.0-15.0%.

Now it could be easy to say that the campaign’s content is driving the sentiment score. More specifically, that empathetic people talking about the impact that Wade has had on their lives is the biggest driver of such a positive response.

However, the content was not guaranteed to drive positive sentiment. One of the most common criticisms of influencer marketing or athlete partnerships is that campaigns lack authenticity. More specifically, that athletes are promoting something because they are receiving compensation and not necessarily because the values of the company align with the values of the athlete. Conversely, corporate partners also often try to fit an influencer within what the company is trying to say in a campaign rather than looking at what athlete has said or done that is important to him / her.

The reason that this campaign resonates so positively with such a large audience is likely because it is authentic both to Wade and to Budweiser. As the text of Budweiser’s Twitter post states, Wade has been swapping jerseys with NBA players that are meaningful to him throughout the season. While this is more common in soccer, it is rare that NBA players engage in this activity to the point where the jersey swap has become synonymous with Wade’s final season.

While Budweiser has a number of different campaigns running at the moment, the one it is likely most well known for is “This Bud’s For You.” Budweiser more recently has used this campaign and ones like it to connect to Millennials by focusing on how a large company can create unique experiences. Budweiser wants its current and potential customers to associate the moments that are most valued by them with one of its alcoholic beverages.

The #ThisBudsFor3 campaign makes this concept tangible by creating an experience for Wade that is clearly memorable for him. More importantly, it focuses on what Wade finds to be personally important rather than solely focusing on athletic achievement. This enables Budweiser to create a unique experience for Wade that everyone can relate to in their own lives.

In many of our blog posts, we focus on the importance of examining data to drive the decision-making process. However, we also understand that corporate partnerships in sports can and should be different than other advertising channels. Athletes, teams, competitions, and events create unique narratives that facilitate connections with audiences in deeply emotional and personal ways. The #ThisBudsFor3 campaign demonstrates the value associated with instances when rights holders and partners understand what makes sports special and why this should be the focus of a partnership whenever possible.