Oscar winner Spike Lee just directed a Budweiser ad showing Jackie Robinson's baseball debut
After spending more than ever on advertising during Super Bowl 2019, Anheuser-Busch is gearing up for another huge date in the sporting calendar: Major League Baseball's opening day on Thursday.
The brewery giant is marking the occasion by running a Budweiser commercial directed by Spike Lee and featuring the legacy of Jackie Robinson.
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Robinson was the first African-American to play in the big leagues when he made his Brooklyn Dodgers debut at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947.
His impact as a player and as a symbol in the fight for racial equality led him to being named as one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people of the 20th century. Assessing himself, Robinson once said "I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me, all I ask is that you respect me as a human being."
The Budweiser ad is called "Impact" and will show the moment he broke the racial barrier after more than 50 years of segregation baseball.
Narrated by Robinson's daughter, Sharon Robinson, the campaign shows original footage of the game with an imagined group of fans in a bar celebrating (and drinking Budweiser). It notes that Robinson would have been 100 years old this year — he died at age 53 in 1972 — and finishes with another quote from Robinson: "A life is not important, except for the impact it has on other lives."
Ricardo Marques, vice president of marketing core and value brands for Anheuser-Busch, told CNBC by phone Monday that Robinson was someone who displayed "extreme courage and resilience to break the color barrier in challenging times."
Marques said partnering with Lee didn't happen by chance because the Oscar-winning director holds a special admiration for Robinson. The Budweiser executive believes the ad will have an impact even on those with little knowledge of Robinson's life.
"His story, combined with Spike Lee's talent and (Robinson's) daughter narrating — all of that will create a very compelling story for any age or demographic," he said.
A three-minute online version of the commercial launched Tuesday, two days before the minute-long TV version airs during opening day. The ad will also be shown in baseball stadiums throughout the season and in movie theaters across the United States.
Budweiser has partnered with the Jackie Robinson Foundation and will donate 42 cents — the number on Robinson's shirt — from each sale of limited-edition bottles of Bud to the nonprofit.
Marques said the funds raised for the foundation should help it to open a long-planned Jackie Robinson museum in New York City.