John Madden’s publicity game was powerful enough to spread to baseball – Sportico.com


Hall of Fame football coach John Madden, who died on Tuesday, was unmistakably a grill legend, and his legacy lives on not only in the generation of sports broadcasters he inspired, but also, perhaps more importantly. again, through EA’s billion dollar Madden video. series of games.

What fewer people may know is that Madden, who is honored in NFL games this week with a moment of silence, has already lent his skills to the world of baseball by appearing in a beer commercial. Miller Lite as a fast fielder. This happened in 1983, five years after Madden retired as a successful coach for the Oakland Raiders.

Entered as a color commentator for CBS Sports in 1979, then partnered with Pat Summerall in 1981, Madden’s national visibility (aided by a Super Bowl championship after the 1976 season) made him a perfect choice for a new brand. on the verge of revolutionizing beer. world.

For much of the 1970s, the dominant national beer brands were traditional lagers or pilsners such as Budweiser, Pabst, and Schlitz. But in 1973, Miller, then owned by tobacco giant Philip Morris, began testing the marketing of a low-calorie beer designed to support Miller’s high life in a transparent bottle (“the champagne of bottled beers”).

The problem for Lite was its perception. If a brand of beer intended to count calories (“a third less than our regular beer”), that implied that beer might target women more than men. And male drinkers at the time would have accounted for 80% of the volume.

The fix: Ask muscular male celebrities to tell viewers “Miller’s light ale was everything you ever wanted in a beer… and less.” Or that Miller Lite allowed thirsty men to drink multiple beers and not get bloated. The famous slogan? “Less filling. Good taste.

As the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) outlawed the use of active professional athletes in beer advertising, Miller found a creative way around federal regulations by signing retired athletes.

The campaign took off because the most famous tough guy wanted to participate in the debate. Football stars like Matt Snell, Deacon Jones, Dick Butkus, Ray Nitschke, Ben Davidson all stepped in. Also Madden who shot his first Lite commercial in 1980.

Meanwhile, on the baseball side of the ledger, the ad campaign used MLB notables such as Billy Martin, Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Dick Williams, Boog Powell, Bob Uecker, Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle, Marv Throneberry ( who made more money doing commercials for light beer than when he played baseball) and Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

Eventually, Lite’s commercial was famous enough that Miller started combining the All-Stars in reunion spots showing each celebrity’s most famous shade. Madden’s “song” was a bar speech and then, more famously, a breakthrough in Lite’s commercial end shot.

In 1983, one of Madden’s greatest moments of approval came when Miller’s advertising agency Backer & Spielvogel hosted (and filmed) a softball game between the Tastes Greats and the Less Fillings. At the start of the 60-second commercial, former Baltimore Orioles slugger Powell had come to bat with the Greats led 15-0.

At this point, co-managers Martin and Williams decided to use their enclosure and signaled comedian Rodney Dangerfield to wrap up.

As you might expect, the hapless Dangerfield was quick to allow up 15 points, leading Greats manager Frank Robinson to seek a batter for the game’s only player, actress Lee Meredith, after which the never-known Uecker. for his batting prowess, offered to strike him instead. True to his Miller Lite character, Mr. Baseball (“I have to be in the front row”) was immediately yelled at by his teammates.

Meredith smokes Dangerfield’s first pitch on the Miller Lite scoreboard in centerfield, appearing to win the game for the Greats. But at the end of the commercial, Madden, playing on the field for the Less Fillings, abruptly bursts through the Lite signage, claiming to have caught the ball somewhere outside the stadium.

As the author, journalist and endorser of Miller Lite, Frank Deford wrote it down in his 1984 book, Lite Reading: Miller’s Beer Lite Commercial Scrapbook, the brand produced the most popular advertisement on television. This prompted Deford to ask, “Have you ever met someone who didn’t like the Lite campaign?” Have you ever met someone who went to the bathroom when a Lite commercial was on TV? “

RIP John Madden. Most historians will talk about your greatness as a coach or broadcaster. But a few of us are still out there who remember you as a great center fielder.

Rick Burton is the David B. Falk Professor of Sports Management at Syracuse University. Early in his business career, he was the national advertising director for Miller Lite beer (but not when the famous All-Star commercials mentioned above were filmed and aired).


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