Miller Lite toasts John Madden with #MaddenMemories

As John Madden’s family hosts a public memorial for him today in Oakland, Calif., Miller Lite is raising a glass to the legendary football coach and TV personality who died at 85 late last year.

Madden, a larger-than-life figure, transcended sports. He was a fixture on American televisions each Thanksgiving, where he’d broadcast football games and award top players turkey legs. He even introduced America to the unholy duck-inside-a-chicken-inside-a-turkey delicacy known as the turducken.

In later years, he arguably became better known for the video game that bears his name. And he’ll forever be remembered as an energetic spokesman for Miller Lite.

As his family, fans, contemporaries and other football greats gather to celebrate Madden’s life today, Miller Lite is inviting fans to leave their favorite memories of him on Twitter using the #MaddenMemories hashtag. Miller Lite will donate $10 to the Madden Family Foundation for every Madden memory through the middle of March.

“John Madden wasn’t just a legendary player, coach and broadcaster. He was truly one of the first beer influencers before social media existed,” says Michelle Nagel, senior marketing manager for Miller Lite. “He brought his personality to life, literally breaking through walls to tell consumers that Miller Lite tastes great.”

Indeed, Madden burst into American homes hoisting a Miller Lite for the first time in 1980, as he transitioned from the sideline to the broadcast booth. His sponsorship and stamp of approval supercharged awareness around the beer, which at the time was a relative newcomer to the industry.

Madden was part of a galaxy of sports stars who promoted Miller Lite during the ‘80s, including Joe Frazier, Mickey Mantle and Bob Uecker, as beer advertising increasingly showcased celebrities’ personalities and lifestyles rather than a bland endorsement.

For Madden’s part, he credited the ads in helping him get into broadcasting, a career that gave him fame and fortune, while showcasing his affable personality and deep knowledge of football.

“I went from John Madden, the coach, to John Madden, the Miller Lite guy who breaks through the wall. … And then after I got in the commercial, you just become part of the team. It was an amazing experience,” Madden told BroBible in 2016. “It was a bridge to this life from coaching. And then the commercials got me into television as an analyst. And then of course I did that the rest of my career until I retired.”

The commercials helped elevate both Madden and light beer, he recounted.

“(It was) a game-changer for me, it was a game-changer for drinkers. I mean, light beer – this was 40 years ago. People didn’t know about light beer. That was the whole thing. It’s less filling, tastes great,” he said.

In the ads, Madden played a parody of himself, loud-mouthed and clumsy, but a force that united friends around Miller Lite.

In one ad, he crashes through a wall into a hazy tavern full of fellas drinking Miller Lite. Madden tears through the bar, grabbing a Lite off a waitress’ tray and repeating the beer’s “tastes great, less filling” mantra.

“It’s everything you want in a beer – and less,” the tagline says.

Madden, part of a coterie of Miller Lite All-Stars that appeared in ads during the ‘80s, was the consummate pitchman, Nagel says.

“If you heard John Madden talk about football, you knew you could trust what he was saying. That’s why having him promote Miller Lite was so powerful,” Nagel says. “John Madden was a legend before he was a fixture on TV, and we’re proud he chose to play a part in the Miller Lite story.”