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PBR Turns to History for a Brilliant Piece of Content Marketing: The Beer Run

The All-American beer brand found the perfect opportunity to share a bit of offbeat history – and promote their label.

Not all heroes wear capes, or uniforms, for that matter.
When PBR got wind of one of humanity’s greatest endeavors – or as they titled it, “The Greatest Beer Run Ever” – they spotted an opportunity for a brilliant piece of content marketing. In the past, other companies have turned to their own backgrounds to produce content; Beretta, for example, put together a beautiful video tying together the new and traditional manufacturing processes that make their shotguns works of art. But PBR used a piece of US history and what would otherwise be pure urban legend to create a masterful piece of marketing.
Four aged buddies, all New Yorkers, bond over PBRs in a dingy bar, recounting the exploits of one of their number, John “Chickie” Donohue. The “hero” of the story, Donohue, was a merchant seamen who had previously been through Vietnam in his seafaring travels. With the encouragement of a local barkeep, Chickie set out to revisit the Asian country, this time with the goal of buying his three pals a beer.
In a brilliant display of stupidity, ingenuity, good luck and sweet talking, Chickie worked his way around Vietnam, hitching rides on planes and trucks to hunt down his three friends.
Chickie, who was initially more concerned with running into officers than the enemy, found his first two buddies within 48 hours of landing in Vietnam. At one point becoming stranded near the coast, his journey took him through firefights and he narrowly missed heavy fighting in Saigon, but he accomplished his mission (wearing faded jeans for the majority of his exploits).
PBR’s storytelling is nearly perfect. It weaves together a reunion of veterans and old friends, shows the boundlessness of friendship, touches upon a major part of American history, and uses a beer delivery as its premise. It’s a story viewers want to share, and one they’ll tell their friends about. But when the friend wants to search it, or the link is passed along, the first thing they’ll see is “PBR.”
As one of the veterans mentions, Chickie “did things that nobody else would think about doing,” which is perhaps an apt way to describe Pabst Blue Ribbon’s video.
While the story of this beer run may have the best storytelling and production, there is a predecessor to this journey in WWII here, told by Vince Speranza.

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