The Area 51 event this weekend shows that marketers can make a killing on the absurd
Allen Kim, CNN
Published at | Updated at
(CNN) — The supposed raid of Area 51 is finally nearing after months of publicity. All hype aside, one thing is for certain: It’s bound to be a disappointment for anyone hoping for definitive proof of the existence of aliens.
However, those who attend on Friday, September 20, may not get the answers that they seek (2.1 million people have RSVP’d), the brands that have capitalized on this internet phenomenon are getting tons of exposure by marketing around an event that started as a joke.
Matty Roberts started the Facebook group “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us” in June as a joke. It went viral and spawned a number of memes. It has since grown into a massive phenomenon that could potentially draw thousands of people to Nevada this weekend.
For some brands, this was the perfect marketing opportunity.
One look at the Bud Light Twitter page shows how dedicated the brand is with its feed saturated with Area 51-themed posts. Bud Light first threw its hat in the ring when it asked followers on Twitter to retweet its post about releasing limited-edition alien cans of Bud Light. That tweet currently has more than 62,000 likes and 40,000 retweets (they set a goal of 51,000 retweets), but Bud Light released the cans to fans anyway in Nevada, Arizona and California on September 13.
That’s not all, though. Bud Light has an online shop where you can buy shirts, hats, a flag and even socks. The shop’s most expensive item is a $100 bomber jacket that is sold out.
Bud Light is hosting the Area 51 Celebration music festival at the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center tonight. More than 6,400 people have RSVP’d or shown interest in attending.
Joining Bud Light in Nevada is Arby’s. The fast-food chain sent a food truck on a cross-country journey to the Storm Area 51 base camp in Hiko, Nevada, to feed attendees with a special edition menu created for this weekend. From the galaxy milkshake to the redacted-on-rye sandwich, Arby’s has gone all-in on Area 51.
Other brands such as Kool Aid have joined the fray, giving away canisters of its limited-edition “UFO-Yeah” drink mix. But none have garnered as much attention as Bud Light and Arby’s.
This whole Area 51 craze may be a joke, but it indicates that the right brand with the right strategy can take advantage of nearly any situation.
However, if participants actually storm the secretive military base, the brands that threw their support behind this absurd event could face a backlash.