Case Study: Dwayne Wade x Budweiser


I remember when Dwayne Wade first broke through in the NBA. I loved his style of play, even though I didn’t care much for the Miami Heat. A lot of time has gone by since his early career. Last month, Dwayne Wade retired.

Throughout the course of his final season, Wade would trade his jersey with other star players throughout the league at the end of each game. He swapped jerseys with LeBron, with Steph Curry, and others. I imagine that collection will be a fun one to show off to his grandkids someday.

Then, during the last week of his career, Budweiser came through and released a video to celebrate Dwayne Wade, by featuring him doing some more “jersey swapping.” Only this time it wasn’t with other players. A student who he helped support through his scholarship program gave him a cap and gown. A young girl gave him a pair of sneakers that belonged to her brother who was killed in the Parkland school shooting. Wade was an outspoken supporter of the school after the event. He even got a jacket from his own mom, who was motivated by Wade to turn her life around after some mistakes landed her in prison.

If you haven’t seen that ad yet, then go. Now. Check it out. It’s in a rare class of moving videos, and you can appreciate it even if you aren’t an NBA fan or if you happen to think Budweiser tastes like grass water.

Here’s what I love about the video:

It’s aspirational and attainable. It gives its audience something to aspire to, while feeling like it’s possible. The video reminded that our legacy isn’t built by our hero moments, but the small bits of good we do in between.

Most of us might look to big career wins to define success. Just like you’d expect a successful NBA career to consist of a handful of 40 point games, a championship buzzer beater, and a few All Star nods or an MVP award. We often strive for a legacy built on job titles, publications, and other hero moments.

The Dwayne Wade video reminds us that we’ll really be remembered for the lives we impacted along the way. How did we show up for the people in our community? Our supporters? Our family? Our teammates? It was a lesson that I felt applied to my own life, and it was a challenge that I felt I could take on.

In other words, the video was aspirational and actionable, and as distant as I feel from Dwayne Wade and Budweiser, suddenly it felt like they had something relevant to my own day to day experience.

The video was aspirational because it’s a pretty rare occasion when we get to come face to face with all the lives we will impact for better or worse throughout our life. A lot of us simply hope that in that situation we’d be able to see that our acts of kindness and generosity made a real impact.

That gives us something to aspire to. Something that won’t come easy, but that offers hope for a moment in the future where lives are changed because of the way we spent our days.

Purpose driven branding does this well. It reminds us of the best versions of ourselves.

At the same time, giving somebody something to aspire to doesn’t work if you don’t keep it attainable. Show a scenario that people can imagine themselves in.

A similar ad campaign might have focused on some of Dwayne’s great basketball feats, showing clips from his performance in the 2006 NBA Finals, or that one time he hit a game winning three in overtime against the Bulls. But that ad wouldn’t have resonated as well.

I’m never going to play in the NBA and I’ve accepted that. Most people won’t play in the league. A highlight reel might’ve been impressive, but nowhere near relatable. A viewer probably wouldn’t be able to see himself or herself in those clips.

Here’s the lesson for anyone trying to put together materials for other people- tell a story that’s aspirational but attainable. One that inspires people to be the best version of themselves, in a setting they can relate to.

Maybe you work in a country where most of your audience will never go. Maybe you work on an issue that is widely unfamiliar to most people. But maybe you can find a component of your work that still connects with them. Look for a simple truth that remains true across contexts.

Like the fact that whether you’re on the court or off, on the job or off, your legacy is built through small moments that last.

Philippe Lazaro