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Budweiser's Monica Rustgi on working with Dwyane Wade for "This Bud's For 3" & more

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Monica Rustgi / Photo courtesy of Weber & Shandwick
Monica Rustgi / Photo courtesy of Weber & Shandwick

Earlier this week, Budweiser unveiled a tribute film titled This Bud’s For 3, honoring NBA legend Dwyane Wade’s upcoming retirement. Celebrating not only his incredible athletic achievements but also his impact and legacy off the court, This Bud's For 3 finds Wade coming face-to-face with some of the fans he has impacted the most within his career.

To honor Dwyane’s last home game in Miami, Budweiser aired the full four-minute film at Miami, Florida's AmericanAirlines Arena before tip-off and during halftime on April 9th. Meanwhile, 90-second version of the film is set to air on Fox Sports Sun this week.

Monica Rustgi, Vice President of Budweiser, spoke with me about This Bud's For 3 and plenty more. Prior to winding up at Budweiser, Rustgi was a singer that had opened for A Tribe Called Quest and written songs for the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull. She joined up with Bud in 2013 after earning an M.B.A. at MIT's Sloan School of Management.

How exactly did you transition from the music world into working with Budweiser?

Monica Rustgi: I realized when I made the decision to formally leave the music industry that during my time there, while I was doing something innately creative, I was also simultaneously building a business and a brand for myself. I realized I could apply this to the formal business world and provide a non-conventional perspective. I went to MIT Sloan for business school where Budweiser came to recruit and they brought me on to help manage the Global Sport and Music partnerships as my first role.

Is there a music-related accomplishment of yours that you are most proud of?

Monica Rustgi: This past year we had the opportunity to work with both Bob Dylan and The Cloves to provide music for our iconic Budweiser Super Bowl commercial. It was the #1 most Shazamed commercial of Super Bowl, but the iconic “Blowin in the Wind” track acted as an additional character to our spot, helping to pull people in and drive awareness for our important message of sustainability and the power of wind power in brewing our beer. The commercial delivered a message bigger than beer and we couldn’t have done it without the perfect song to bring our message to life.

You recently worked on a Bud campaign with Dwyane Wade. How long did that take to come together?

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Monica Rustgi: It actually happened pretty fast! With Dwyane in his final season of the NBA, we knew we wanted to do something special to not only celebrate his legendary athleticism on the court but arguably more importantly, his incredible impact off the court. The storyline of the film was inspired by Wade’s iconic jersey swap and we loved this gesture of him swapping jerseys with opposing players at the end of each game. So we thought it would be interesting to surprise Wade with some of his fans, each of them coming with something to swap with him and those items they brought each representing the personal impact he had on their lives.

Last month, we invited Dwyane to swap jerseys with select “surprise” legends -- but he was surprised to find they were not NBA legends, but rather some of his most legendary fans that he’s directly impacted the lives of as a result of his time and generosity off the court. We were honored that he would trust Budweiser to do a tribute film in the right way and through the process we actually surprised him along the way.

Is there a takeaway you hope that viewers will come away with from watching This Bud's For 3?

Monica Rustgi: Absolutely! This Bud’s For 3 tells the story of Dwyane’s impact off the court and showcases his incredible connection with his fans. Dwyane is considered one of the greatest basketball players to ever play the game, having won three NBA titles and appearing in 13 All-Star Games in his NBA career. While his career has been nothing short of remarkable, this film highlights his even more impactful legacy off the court.

Do you remember the first sports-related campaign you worked on within your Budweiser tenure?

Monica Rustgi: The first idea campaign I worked on for Budweiser that in all honesty unlocked our sweet space in sports was in 2016 when the [Chicago] Cubs won the World Series after a 108-year drought. It was incredible to see how we as a brand mobilized when this moment was turning from a possibility to a reality. From idea to launch we did the whole campaign in 12 days. It was exhilarating to know that as a brand we had the tools and ambition to bring forth a campaign that would contribute and pay homage to this major milestone for the sport as well as America.

What is coming up for Budweiser in the coming months? Any other work with athletes or sports teams?

Monica Rustgi: When you get to lead an iconic brand like Bud, there’s always something we’re dreaming up! Stay tuned, we have some more up our sleeve this month.

Do you have a favorite sports team at the moment?

Monica Rustgi: I will always love the [Cleveland] Cavs. I grew up in Ohio and went to many games as a child.

What was the last live sporting event you attended? The Super Bowl?

Monica Rustgi: I was down in Atlanta with Budweiser for Super Bowl in February alongside our famous Clydesdales. Being part of Super Bowl with Budweiser never gets old!

When not busy with Budweiser, where does your free time usually go?

Monica Rustgi: Traveling. It always important to me to intentionally unplug from the day-to-day to explore and learn more about different cultures and people. It only helps my POV to get richer and sharper when I get back into Budweiser. Helps to keep me fresh, honest, and curious.

Finally, Monica, any last words for the kids?

Monica Rustgi: Don’t focus on being like someone else -- focus on being the best version of yourself.

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