Anheuser-Busch Goes Long With NFL Pact

$1.2 billion deal will drive fans to Bud Light

Anheuser-Busch InBev on Thursday blew some of the foam off its multimillion-dollar NFL sponsorship, saying that it would leverage the deal to help sell more Bud Light to pro football fans.

Speaking to investors during A-B InBev’s second-quarter earnings call, CEO Carlos Brito said the brewer is getting set to kick off a major activation around Bud Light, a blitz package that will include a new TV and retail offensive.

“The NFL is all about the fan, about action, and about fans getting together,” Brito said. “And as such, it is perfectly aligned with the Bud Light brand.”

The St. Louis-based agency Cannonball will lead the advertising campaign, which will launch before the regular season begins on Sept. 8. The linear TV buy will be augmented by a comprehensive digital effort designed to raise awareness of “new packaging, including limited-edition, theme-specific cans and packs,” Brito said.

Earlier this week, A-B took the wraps off a new design scheme for its flagship brand, Budweiser. 

Bud Light officially supplanted MillerCoors’ Coors Light as the NFL’s beer sponsor in April, returning to the fold after a 10-year absence. A-B signed a six-year, $1.2 billion pact with the league, which grants it exclusive use of the iconic NFL shield in its advertising and promotional activities.

The A-B contract does not shut out MillerCoors from buying time in NFL broadcasts. After A-B punted on its earlier deal with the league—that sponsorship ran from 1990-2001—Bud was still a familiar presence during each successive NFL season.

Along with traditional 30-second buys in NFL broadcasts on NBC, CBS, Fox, and ESPN, MillerCoors also has sponsorship alliances in place with two-thirds of the league’s franchises. One of its exclusive local pacts is with the Chicago Bears, which represents the No. 2 brewer’s home market.

The increased exposure afforded by the NFL should help prevent Bud Light from skunking. In the second quarter, domestic sales fell 3.4 percent versus the year-ago period.

“Bud Light . . . has 21 percent of the market share in the U.S.,” Brito said. “We think [with the NFL deal] we can do even better.”

Last year, AB invested $436.8 million in measured media for its Budweiser and Bud Light brands, an increase of 11 percent from its 2009 spend.

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