SPONSORSHIP TODAY

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ISBN: 2050-4888
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Beer - global sponsorship analysis

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BEER BRAND SPONSORSHIP STRATEGIES

BUDWEISER / BUD LIGHT

Budweiser is the both the leading brand and sponsor in the global beer market. The brand has grown internationally over the past three decades and used its FIFA World Cup partnership to help to develop awareness and image in international markets. Its sponsorship portfolio outside of the US, however, is relatively small when it comes to major rights with only the title sponsorship of soccer’s F.A Cup in England being added to its FIFA rights.

The actual Budweiser brand itself has struggled in the US, where it trails in third place behind stable mate Bud Light and Coors Light. There are numerous reasons behind the decline, including increased competition and the fact that US drinkers are looking for lower calorie options. Bud Light, introduced in 1982, became the best-selling brand in the USA in 2001. ABInBev is using sponsorship extensively to support both brands.

In 2010, eyebrows were raised when Bud Light paid a record breaking $1 billion for its six-year deal for NFL rights, roughly twice the amount incumbent, MillerCoors had been paying.

Budweiser’s rights to the MLB are considerably cheaper at $20m per year. MillerCoors had been predicted to have made a bid for MLB rights once it lost the NFL and many industry observers were surprised at the relatively low level of the renewal. The value of Budweiser’s NBA rights hasn’t been disclosed but IMR estimates this deal at $35m per year.

Budweiser also has rights to the majority of major professional sports teams, especially in American football, baseball and basketball.

Budweiser had been rumoured to be cutting back on its sponsorship spend prior to its 2010 NFL deal and following the takeover of Anheuser Busch by InBev. That clearly hasn’t happened with both the Budweiser and Bud Light brands continuing to invest heavily in sports.

HEINEKEN

Heineken’s biggest sponsorship deal is its $70 million per year partnership with UEFA for Champions League rights.

The relationship dates back to 1994 when the competition (previously the European Cup) was in its infancy. For the first 11 years, the sponsorship was designed to promote the Amstel brand, partly because the Champions League was primarily aimed at a European audience.

Since 2005 the company switched to using the event to promote Heineken on a global basis as the Champions League television coverage expanded throughout the world.

Heineken has been one of the pioneers of developing social media to activate its sponsorships and its Champions League Star Player online competition, in which fans have the chance to predict match outcomes live, has been hailed as one of the most effective social media activations produced to date.

Aside from the Champions League, Heineken is also title sponsor of Europe’s premier international club rugby competition, the Heineken Cup as well as a global partner for the Rugby World Cup in 2015. The reason for involvement in rugby is seen as very different to that of soccer.

In soccer it is about reaching large numbers of fans globally and creating awareness and a link to the brand. For rugby, Heineken sees the audience as much more loyal – effectively fans remember who the sponsoring brand is and there is a mutually rewarding relationship. This explains why the brand backs the Heineken Cup despite the fact that in one of the key markets, France, it is simply known as the H Cup for legal reasons.

The brand has notably avoided sponsorship/pouring rights of individual teams. The rationale, according to Heineken, is that the company is a ‘great host’ and as such it wants to be at the heart of events and consequently takes event, rather than team, rights.

CARLSBERG

Carlsberg’s sponsorship portfolio is almost exclusively aimed at soccer. The brand is predominantly European and the marketing strategy has clearly identified football fans as the ideal demographic representing its core target market.

“Football is the perfect match for the Carlsberg brand,” says sponsorship director Keld Strudahl. “It has mass international appeal and high status, it engages our core male target audience and it suits our brand positioning of the best beer for the best moments. What’s better than watching your favourite team with your best mates, while enjoying a cold pint of Carlsberg”

The brand has had long-term high profile associations with UEFA (European Championships), which started in 1998, Liverpool F.C (primary shirt sponsor between 1992 and 2010) and the English Football Association as national team sponsor and Wembley Stadium partner. It also has national team sponsorship deals with soccer’s governing bodies in Bulgaria, Denmark, Serbia and Switzerland, which are strongly activated during World Cups and European Championships.

In the case of the latter, the domestic and UEFA sponsorships mean that the brand effectively has exclusive rights in those countries where it has deals with national teams. This is usually translated into dramatic sales uplifts as stores give high prominence to point of sale displays and multipacks which have official event branding.

After a period of difficulty in growing the market in Western Europe, and significant problems with its Russian operation, where there were major increases in duty leading to falling sales, the brand appears to have stabilised and has embarked on a new round of sponsorships including official rights to the English Premier League and Arsenal F.C.

The brand is keen to expand into Asia and has taken some minor rights on the continent and this is one area where rights acquisitions are likely to continue.

MILLER LITE / COORS LIGHT

Despite backing away from a bidding war with Budweiser over NFL rights, MillerCoors still has a significant NFL presence with its deals the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Timberwolves in particular. The brand is also continuing to invest in media promotion around NFL matches.

Its sponsorship budget has, however, shifted largely to ice hockey where it has a $53.5m per year deal with the NHL as well as further deals with the majority of teams.

Coors Light also has significant deals in soccer, both with MLS clubs and significantly also in Mexico where it sponsors the national soccer league and leading club.

Given the long-term nature of the ‘mega’ properties in the USA, however, MillerCoors has limited opportunities to make further significant impact through sponsorship at present. Instead it is expected that the brand will continue to spend marketing budget on media buying, much of which may be related to sports programming.

GUINNESS

Guinness sales are reported as flat in Europe but rising in the USA and Africa. Its sponsorship strategy in Europe has traditionally focussed on Rugby Union and in the past this has included title rights to the English Premiership, IRB World Cup partnerships and deals with several of the leading clubs. The brand has, to a large extent cut back on spend on rugby; it is now a partner rather than title sponsor of Premier Rugby and it dropped its IRB Rugby World Cup rights after the 2011 competition in New Zealand.

In Africa, the company has invested heavily in soccer having taken rights to the Nigerian and Ghanian national teams. Nigeria, the biggest beer market on the continent, is particularly important to Guinness and the brand has taken broadcast sponsorship rights to football as well as created events such as the friendly match between the Nigerian national team and

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