In 1975, the marketing department at Anheuser-Busch cooked up a canny idea.
Seeing that tens of thousands of college kids flocked to seaside towns like San Diego and Miami for spring break, company reps showed up on the beach and began handing out T-shirts with a Budweiser logo on them. Decal shirts were already cool at the time, and most shopping malls had shirt kiosks that gave shoppers (mainly men) their choice of thousands of decals, from Elvis to the Pontiac Firebird to the Playboy Bunny. But Budweiser was a brand most everyone could agree to wear, not least because many of the party boys were buying cases of Bud anyway.
But the true savvy lay in the simple fact that its shirts—white cotton T-shirts trimmed with red on the neck—were free. And as all those kids found their way back to class that fall, the Budweiser T-shirt morphed into a status symbol on campus.
In marketing, as in so much else, every new idea is really just an old idea that someone has rediscovered. Which is why, this Father’s Day, it might look like a whole lot of gray-whiskered American dads are doing spring break all over again. Anheuser-Busch has officially unveiled the Bud Dads Apparel Collection, an assortment of throwback duds including a hat, a button-up jacket, a camp shirt and, of course, a white T-shirt, all bearing the Budweiser logo. (Alas, this time they’re not free.)
“We have celebrated dad in a number of ways over the years,” Budweiser marketing vp Monica Rustgi said. But this year, “we decided to take Father’s Day back to the peak of when dads had the most swag—the 1970s.”
In fact, the collection isn’t one of those inspired-by deals that’s just meant to look retro; all of the designs were pulled from company catalogs dating to the 1970s and 1980s. Items like the baseball cap and T-shirt bear the Budweiser emblem that normally wraps around a glass bottle. Items like the denim jacket bear the famous bowtie logo, which Budweiser first introduced in 1957.
The collection, Rustgi said, was inspired by family photos where (at least in some families) a can of Bud is often not far from father, be he manning the grill or watching the game. “The collection is an homage to dad and the nostalgia-led fashion that’s making a comeback.”
Matters of fashion aside, the attraction of branded gear is that, even in an era dominated by social media promotions, caps and T-shirts still do the job as well as they always have. Though brands may be loath to state it so bluntly, a decal T-shirt turns its wearer into a walking billboard. In this case, Budweiser prefers to characterize the gear as being a conversation starter—but, well, same difference.
Prices range from $25 for the hat on up to $100 for the denim jacket. And while it’s a bit too late to have the swag delivered in time for Father’s Day, appreciative children can still find most of the collection for sale at ShopBeerGear.com.
For those who were just going to get dad the classic standby Father’s Day gift—the necktie—Budweiser has one of those, too, for only 20 bucks.