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Why Michelob Ultra will be the real winner of Tiger and Phil’s The Match II

Being the first U.S. live sports broadcast in months, the charity golf tournament’s sponsors have pulled out the stops.

Why Michelob Ultra will be the real winner of Tiger and Phil’s The Match II
(Left to right) Phil Mickelson, Tom Brady, Tiger Woods, and Peyton Manning [Photos: Peetlesnumber1/Wikimedia Commons (Mickelson); Christian Petersen/Getty Images (Brady); Keith Allison/Wikimedia Commons (Woods); Chris Condon/PGA TOUR via Getty Images (Manning)]

At the emotional climax of Caddyshack—the Citizen Kane of golf cinema—young caddie Danny Noonan is lining up a final putt that could end a $40,000 wager between bitter rivals, real estate developer Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield) and Judge Smails (Ted Knight). As the tension heightens, Czervik blurts out, “Hey Judge, double or nothing he makes it, $80,000?” Smails aggressively mumbles his agreement, his scorching rage barely concealed, then aims eye daggers at Noonan, still lining up his shot, and hurls a red-faced, “WELL? WE’RE WAITING . . .”

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One of the primary beauties of golf, as director Harold Ramis so giddily illustrated with this 1980 film, is in just how . . . slow . . . it . . . is.

It provides plenty of time for doubt to creep in. Plenty of time to make that last bet. Plenty of time to crack that last bit of trash talk.

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson don’t have anything in common with either Czervik or Smails, but their years-long rivalry will be on full display for Sunday’s charity challenge The Match II. Officially called “Capital One’s The Match: Champions for Charity,” it’s a live golf competition held at Medalist Golf Club in Florida, headlined by Woods and Mickelson returning for a rematch from their 2018 head-to-head, this time joined by NFL greats Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. The WarnerMedia broadcast will be simulcast exclusively on TNT, TBS, truTV, and HLN at 3 p.m. ET, with pre-match coverage on the Bleacher Report app.

It’s the first American live sports broadcast in almost two months, so fans, gamblers, and yes, brands are scrambling to check it out.

Even non-golf-fans will undoubtedly be tuning in. Hey, if you were desperate enough to master pronouncing Borussia Monchengladbach, or watch cherry pit spitting, you’re sports-starved enough to want to see Brady shank it into the woods.

Capital One is the title sponsor, with primary brand partners Audi, Progressive Insurance, and Michelob Ultra. Other partners include Cisco and DraftKings, with AT&T, HBO Max, Callaway Golf, Wheels Up, and E-Z-GO serving as associate sponsors.

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Yeah, you could say brands have been a bit sports-starved, too.

Audi, Progressive, and Michelob Ultra are each sponsoring on-course challenges for charity. (The whole event is a charity drive for pandemic relief efforts, including the $10 million purse. There’s also a tie-in with Fanatics’ ongoing All In Challenge.) Capital One’s hole 5 challenge tests the players to use just one club, with the winner getting an additional $250,000 donation. And on holes 4 and 12, the player with the drive shot closest to the hole gets another $250,000 donation. Then there’s Michelob Ultra’s $25 million challenge for anyone who gets a hole-in-one on holes 8 or 16.

The beer brand may be the day’s big brand winner, not just for that long-shot donation or its fan giveaways and social fun to add to the charity pledge.

No, Michelob Ultra will almost certainly be the most talked-about thing from Sunday’s event, because it’s tying the sheer absurdity of Caddyshack to the inherent similarities to The Match II.

Spoiler alert: Michelob went there—and digitally implanted Peyton Manning into some of Caddyshack‘s most iconic scenes.

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For this alone, the brand gets a country club slow clap.

“With Peyton playing in The Match this weekend, and everything he represents as a sports icon, we felt he was a perfect partner to bring this idea to life,” says Michelob Ultra vice president of marketing Ricardo Marques. “Our hope is that this content will drive anticipation for the event on Sunday while giving fans a little humor as they settle in for this special moment in sports history.”

While the original, pre-pandemic plan for The Match II was to air in June, Marques says these ads were made just in the last four weeks. “In these times, it’s more important than ever to be agile and nimble while focusing on two important things: supporting an event helping with COVID-19 relief, and bringing joy to sports fans,” he says.

The brand also created a new ad ode to the beloved golf course beer cart, and fans will have a chance to actually win it for themselves.

Between this and Manning’s Caddyshack bits, Michelob isn’t wasting any time on the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat, instead zeroing in on something most sports fans miss more than either of those emotions: the fun and culture around the sports we love.

The Match II was originally planned to be a more straight-up sequel contest, but plans quickly changed for obvious reasons. It’s going to be a stripped-down broadcast production, with just a couple of camera operators and a skeleton crew. Still, WarnerMedia saw overwhelming demand, being the only live sports game in town, and sold out of all sponsorships for the telecast almost immediately. Another big difference between this and a traditional golf broadcast is the distinct lack of hospitality and travel brands, most of which are struggling in the current situation.

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Progressive CMO Jeff Charney says it was a no-brainer to get involved. “Sports fans are hungry for content right now,” says Charney. “Progressive saw a great first-mover advantage to join this moment that will mark one of the first live sports to return to TV, bringing a sense of normalcy to the new normal and creating moments with sports icons who are sure to entertain.”

You know who else is a sports icon? Carl Spackler. And you can bet Michelob Ultra will find a way to splice history’s greatest groundskeeper with its future NFL Hall of Famer. Funny beer ads for sports may just be the small slice of normalcy we all need. No more piano music and empty streets, just a good ol’ goofy spot.

A commercial eagle, if there ever was one.

Add to that its charitable pledges, the beer cart giveaway on social, donating $1 to the American Red Cross every time its content is shared on social, and the fact that if any of the golfers hit a hole-in-one, the brand will give a free 6-pack of beer for every fan over 21. Given the relatively small roster of major sponsors for The Match II, all of these brands will score for being a part of it, but it’s Michelob Ultra that’s using every club in its bag to win.

So it’ll have that going for it. Which is nice.

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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