Anheuser-Busch, ABC Brew Up Reality Show

Saturday competition series aims to raise Budweiser’s profile

Anheuser-Busch InBev is brewing up a new reality show designed to boost the slumping profile of its flagship brand, Budweiser.

Beginning Jan. 21, the one-hour competition series Bud United presents: The Big Time will air Saturday afternoons on ABC. The network has agreed to broadcast seven installments of the program, which will feature amateurs squaring off in a number of sporting events (baseball, basketball, soccer), as well as a handful of nonathletic pursuits (cooking, music).

Set to air at 3 p.m., the Bud-sponsored reality show will lead into ESPN Sports Saturday. The deal was brokered by ESPN. In exchange for the brand exposure, A-B is paying ABC an undisclosed sum of cash. In 2010, the brewer spent $1.36 billion on measured media, of which a third ($436.8 million) was devoted to Bud and Bud Light.

The Bud United announcement coincides with news that Budweiser has re-upped as the official beer sponsor of the National Basketball Association. That alliance goes back to 1998.

Sibling brand Bud Light is the official beer sponsor of the National Football League, having outflanked rival MillerCoors with a six-year, $1.2 billion agreement in May 2010.

A-B hopes the new ABC series will help turn things around for Budweiser, which over the last few years has steadily lost its buzz. According to Beer Marketer’s Insights, Bud sales declined 30 percent between 2006 and 2010; today, the brand’s market share is south of 9 percent. (The country’s top seller, Bud Light, boasts a 19 percent market share.)

“We are absolutely delighted to partner with ESPN/ABC to bring Bud United presents: The Big Time to network television,” said Frank Abenante, vp of global brands at Anheuser-Busch InBev, by way of announcing the deal. “We leveraged Budweiser’s unparalleled access to international sports, entertainment and lifestyle assets to make these contestants’ dreams come true. We’re looking forward to giving viewers the opportunity to share in these extraordinary journeys of second chances and ambitions fulfilled.”

Each episode of the branded-entertainment program will feature three contestants. In accordance with ABC’s in-house content regulations, the stars of the Bud United show will not be seen quaffing suds.