Anheuser-Busch Adjust Approach to Sports Sponsorship

September 2, 2009

Terry Lefton of the Sports Business Journal documents Anheuser-Busch’s plans to tackle sports sponsorships – a major component of their product marketing strategy.

Since the introduction of Bud Light in 1982, A-B has pursued an approach under which Budweiser and Bud Light have been paired with the brewer’s largest sports sponsorships. Now, individual brands will be matched with specific properties. The most immediate impact starts next week, as Bud Light will get 80 percent of the considerable dollars A-B spends on the NFL. The league had been split evenly between Budweiser and Bud Light in terms of media support.

With regard to other sports properties, MLB’s position as America’s sport with the deepest heritage means it will become primarily a Budweiser play. Since the NBA and Budweiser both index higher among African-Americans, the NBA will receive marketing support from Budweiser. NASCAR will continue to be a Budweiser brand, while the NHL will maintain its longtime affiliation with Bud Light. Budweiser will continue to be the brand associated with A-B’s various soccer properties, including MLS, FIFA and Manchester United, while Bud Light will continue to support niche sports, like UFC, AVP and MLL.

A-B’s new strategy of breaking up multiple brands from its largest properties brings it in line with rival MillerCoors’ one brand/one property approach for sports media and sponsorship buys. A-B marketers said the move was being made both to achieve stronger and more cohesive integration between individual properties and brands.

Payout Perspective: reported a few weeks ago that A-B was looking to revamp its Bud Light brand by pumping millions of dollars into a series of humorous commercials meant to stir up a renewed interest in the “drinkability” campaign. Now, comes the word that the organization is trying to link its individual brands with specific sports properties.

Bud Light is the newer, hipper beer that targets a younger demographic than Budweiser – it’s no surprise that the brand is targeting the UFC, NFL, and NHL.

I’m still adamant that a UFC themed commercial needs to happen. If the company is looking to better align itself with sports properties and their respective demographics, it’s actively got to seek out and engage those fan bases within those demographics. It wouldn’t be difficult to play on the tough guy, UFC theme and link it with “drinkability.”

While I am a fan of these latest moves from A-B, I’m not necessarily a fan of their newest Bud Light Lime extension. Despite the possibility for increased sales volume in the short-term, there’s a real possibility that it dilutes the Bud Light brand over the long-term and that’s obviously far more detrimental. Any time you start expanding a brand with extensions you risk losing the identity and core following of the brand itself.

The brewer might have been better off creating an entirely new brand for the BLL product. It’s all quite reminiscent of the Coke/Tab to Coke/Diet Coke situation of the 80s. Tab, a diet cola brand owned by Coca Cola, was far and away the leader in the segment for sometime. When Pepsi introduced Diet Pepsi to compete, Coke then created Diet Coke, which essentially killed the Tab brand. Now Coca Cola has less of an overall market share in the diet segment than when they started.

Again, this raises the issue of Al Ries “law of expansion:” the power of a brand is inversely related to its scope.

5 Responses to “Anheuser-Busch Adjust Approach to Sports Sponsorship”

  1. Henry G Belot on September 2nd, 2009 1:49 PM

    “The brewer might have been better off creating an entirely new brand for the BLL product…. Tab, a diet cola brand owned by Coca Cola, was far and away the leader in the segment for sometime. When Pepsi introduced Diet Pepsi to compete, Coke then created Diet Coke, which essentially killed the Tab brand.”

    I doubt this is a good analogy. Pepsi’s success was propelled by the use of a different sweetener. Tab tasted putrid by comparison. Diet Coke was introduced in order to give Coke a product using the same sweetener (aspartame vs. saccharine). Public distaste for Tab was very real and it wouldn’t have competed successfully no matter how ingeniously it was marketed. They tried.

    No matter what your feelings about the lite beers, they are unquestionably a marketing success and I don’t think A-B needs to worry. A better analogy there is the flavored colas. I happen to be a big fan of the diet cherry products and the vanilla products, too, when the latter are available. But none has ever been a runaway success whether marketed as an offshoot of the major brand or as a standalone product. (Pepsi has done it both ways and folded the standalone series after about a year.) If the lime product doesn’t fly, it will disappear.

    It’s irrelevant, but I can’t help remarking on the light beers. I’ve always thought of them as GI beers. They’re the same thing that used to be served at the front and in the PXs since at least World War II. When I was in Basic Training, the guys used to make fun of the younger recruits coming back to the barracks drunk on the stuff. Experienced drinkers avoided them as much as possible. But, less alcohol means fewer calories and the advertiser who thought of slapping “Lite” on that stuff should have his remains cast in bronze and placed in a temple where all can worship.


  2. D.A. on September 2nd, 2009 4:06 PM

    InBev, the owners of A-B, have really slashed the marketing budget compared to when A-B was American owned. In terms of product, there is scheduled to be even more starting with Bud Select 55, a 55 calorie beer now in test marketed in 15 cities. The Select 55 brand will also two other A-B varieties. Plus, there is little crosover between Bud and Bud Light drinkers, about 6%.

  3. matt c. on September 3rd, 2009 8:18 AM

    this article provides a lot of insight to what is happening financially with Bud Light. It says they spent $234 million in measured media in 2008.

    It also says their Agency of Record is DDB in Chicago. It might be worth your time to call DDB, try to get an interview with the Account Director on the brand and get their point of view on how the UFC fits into their plans.

  4. reee on September 5th, 2009 9:31 PM

    the article show you one clear picture…ufc and mma is still a niche market..and far from Dana’s claims lol

  5. Lucie Avanzato on June 10th, 2011 7:52 PM

    Floyd is the greatest counter puncher ever born,which means you cannot just steam into him,cos you get countered boom,which means he will have to think,now when? a fighter like Pacquiao has to think,he’s not effective,because he just wants to trade punches,we saw this against Moseley.If it becomes a tactical chess match,pacquiao has NO chance at all,none.7,8 combos against floyd forget it.Pacquiao will be systematically unravelled round by round…

Got something to say?

You must be logged in to post a comment.