'Saturday Night Live' puts on a show sponsored only by Budweiser (no joke!)

It might seem risky for a marketer to integrate its TV spots with a show known for its advertising parodies. But that's not stopping Anheuser-Busch from buying up all the commercial time on this weekend's Saturday Night Live to shill Budweiser. The October 17 show will air eight to nine minutes of commercial time, integrated with the programming -- all of it devoted to introducing the Bud Light Golden Wheat brand extension from Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD), according to Advertising Age.

The ad buy marks the first time in 35 seasons of the show that a single marketer has bought all its national commercial time, according to NBC. It's a clever ploy designed to grab attention for Golden Wheat, which the brewing giant introduced on October 5.
The sponsorship will include segments called "Backstage with Bud Light Golden Wheat," which will include un-aired clips from the show's history, the General Electric (GE)-owned network says. And to highlight the program's commitment to the brand, the program will air scenes from SNL viewing parties hosted by the marketer in cities across the country, NBC says.

Why is Budweiser hitting viewers over the head with its Bud Light Golden Wheat? It's just a way to break from the clutter in a crowded media marketplace. Aside from the Super Bowl and a few other appointment-programming events, many viewers honor the sponsors by hitting the mute or raiding the refrigerator. And with the advance of TiVo (TIVO) and DVRs, zapping the spots is easy.

But by selling the airtime to one sponsor, NBC is actually using an antique technique from the earliest days of TV, when single companies sponsored entire programs, like The Texaco Star Theater, complete with integrated ads that make them more TiVo-resistant. By integrating the beer into the program, Anheuser-Busch hopes the name and message of its new brand will stick with SNL viewers.

And that's not a small group of people. About 11 percent of those watching TV last Saturday night were tuned into SNL, making it the most-watched program for its timeslot, according to NBC.

Still, sponsorships and product integration aren't without their dangers. Remember the Starbucks (SBUX) deal to sponsor MSNBC's Morning Joe this year? Some critics viewed the deal as a blow to the integrity of TV news. But the bigger risk will be for Bud Light Golden Wheat. Will viewers think Golden Wheat is some kind of joke? SNL, after all, is notorious for its witty and sometimes vicious advertising parodies, and beer companies are anything but exempt. And anyone who remembers Adam Sandler and Chris Farley cavorting around a swimming pool for Schmitt's Gay beer knows that Anehuser-Busch is taking its chances.
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