How Bud Light's New NFL Deal Could Change Beer Ads

Bud Light will stay on as the NFL's official beer sponsor through the 2021-2022 season as part of a new deal with the league that gives Anheuser-Busch InBev expanded marketing rights.

The multi-year renewal, which was announced today, for the first time will give the brewer the rights to use actual game footage involving current players in TV ads.

Previously, NFL rules prohibited the use of active players for beer sponsors, which is why beer ads typically show fans, coaches or retired players. However, the new deal still restricts Bud Light from showing individually identifiable players. So, for instance, a Bud Light spot could show fans watching a game -- and for the first time the ad could show true game footage. But the ad could not include Peyton Manning, for instance.

Also, the NFL will allow Bud Light to create digital-only creative using the same rules. Previously, NFL-related content could only be used digitally if it was also in a TV spot.

"We are trying to help them sell beer and they way they can do that is to leverage the NFL to the most avid fans in sports," said Renie Anderson, the NFL's senior VP of sponsorship and partnership management, in an interview.

"The new and significant assets Bud Light is receiving through this partnership will connect the brand in radically new ways with the sport, its teams and -- most importantly -- the fans, to drive our business for years to come," Lucas Herscovici, the brewer's U.S. VP for consumer connections, said in a statement.

While any beer brand can run ads during games, the sponsorship allows for the use of the NFL shield and other logos in advertising and retail displays. A-B InBev has a separate arrangement giving it exclusive beer advertising rights for the Super Bowl, but those deals are negotiated separately with TV networks.

Bud Light replaced Coors Light as the official NFL sponsor in 2011. That deal had an estimated worth of $50 million a year for six years. The new deal replaces the final year of the old deal and adds five years. Dollar terms were not disclosed.

A-B InBev CEO Carlos Brito alluded to the new agreement on a recent earnings call, saying that the brewer was pleased with its return on investment of the sponsorship. "As consumers change their media viewing habits, and the way they interact with sports and the NFL, we're also changing together with the league on properties and things we can activate," he said. "And the NFL has been a very good partner in agreeing with us on changes that we need to do to continue to be relevant with that consumer base."

A-B InBev has also negotiated broader use of individual team logos. Previously, the use of team logos had to be confined to a 75 mile radius surrounding that team's home market. But now Bud Light can use team logos outside their home market.

So, for instance, the brand could sell San Francisco 49er-themed cans at game watch parties in Los Angeles or New York City. The brewer's research shows that 50% of NFL team fans live in a different city than where their favorite team is located, according to an A-B InBev spokeswoman. Team cans are a key part of Bud Light's NFL marketing this year.

Bud Light can still only use the team logos if it has an individual sponsorship deal with the teams. The brand has such deals with 28 of the 32 NFL teams. MillerCoors holds exclusive sponsorship for the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys and shares rights with A-B InBev on an additional 15 teams.


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