MILWAUKEE – Sports world, this Bud’s still for you.
Anheuser-Busch executives told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday that the beer maker will maintain its high level of sports marketing and sponsorship under new owner InBev. In fact, they said, spending could increase.
“There’s nothing at all for those of us that are at the pulse of all this to suggest that our sports are cutting back at all,” said Tony Ponturo, vice president of global media and sports marketing for Anheuser-Busch.
Sports marketing accounts for two-thirds of Anheuser-Busch’s overall marketing, but InBev’s reputation as a cost-cutter had raised speculation that the huge budget could get the ax, leaving many a drinker to wonder “Whassup?”
InBev SA, the maker of brands such as Stella Artois and Beck’s, solidified its $52 billion takeover of the St. Louis-based brewer earlier this week. The company has said it has plans to make Budweiser and Bud Light into worldwide icons like Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
Carlos Brito, chief executive of the Belgian brewer, has said he knows that his new company’s ability to reach consumers through sports is one of the reasons it’s such an attractive brand, and added that there wouldn’t be cuts.
Ponturo and Dave Peacock, vice president for marketing, emphasized that Thursday and said spending could in fact go up. Of course, Anheuser-Busch had initially resisted the takeover, so now the company could be trying to show it can play ball with the new owners.
The beer maker will still maintain sponsorships, they said, adding that it’s inking new deals and extending contracts even just this week. On Tuesday, one day after the deal was official, Ponturo said the company renewed a multi-year deal with the National Basketball Association. And on Thursday, Anheuser-Busch said it has extended its exclusive malt beverage sponsorship with the U.S. Olympic Committee through 2012. The brewer’s sponsorship of the USOC goes back two decades.
Ratings for events like this week’s Major League Baseball’s All-Star game are up, especially with men age 21 to 34, Ponturo said. So they’re not going to change what works.
“The beer consumer totally surrounds himself with sports. It’s emotional, there’s a connection. It’s local. It’s passionate,” he said.
Anheuser-Busch’s reach into the sports world is massive. It’s the official international beer sponsor of the upcoming Olympics and is sponsoring 25 country’s teams. The company also has deals with teams for the National Football League, Major League Baseball, professional golf, and the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, among others.
To many, Anheuser-Busch and its Budweiser and Bud Light brands are synonymous with sports. That’s because the image has been built heavily on marketing.
Think Super Bowl and images of Clydesdale horses and chants of “I love you, man” fill your head.
Ponturo declined to say exactly how much the company spends on marketing, but industry estimates are that Anheuser spent $378 million in the U.S. on marketing last year. That’s far above the nation’s second and third-largest brewers, Miller Brewing Co. and Molson Coors Brewing Co., which began their own joint venture in the U.S., MillerCoors LLC, this month.
InBev bought Anheuser-Busch knowing full well its heavy reliance on sports marketing and the company is not going to change what works, Peacock said.
“They’re not going to walk away from it and sports are so important for reaching consumers with us, and we’re going to maintain the relationships and sponsorships that we have that work,” he said.
People expect Anheuser-Busch to have catchy, sporty ads and they’re able to do that since they’re such a strong presence in the marketplace, said John Sweeney, director of sports communication at the University of North Carolina’s School of Journalism. Since everyone knows Budweiser and Bud Light, they don’t need to spend time talking about the brands in their ads.
“They’re having a conversation with customers, so it’s like yeah, they drop some nice things about Budweiser in, but in the meantime it’s fun, it’s interesting,” he said.
Putting the ads on during sports events makes sense, he said, because men drink beer and men watch sports.
“We don’t congregate in huge numbers in many places, so sports is where we all gather and that makes it a very efficient place to buy media for the male target, which of course is your target beer drinker,” he said.
Other brewers know it. Sweeney said if Anheuser-Busch ends up pulling back, other brewers could swoop in to take those slots.
A look at Anheuser-Busch’s sports marketing
A look at Anheuser-Busch’s sponsorship and involvement in sports:
• BEIJING OLYMPICS 2008: Budweiser is the official international beer sponsor of the games, and official beer sponsor of the National Olympic Teams in 25 countries; Anheuser-Busch is the exclusive alcohol and non-alcohol, malt-based beverage of the telecast on NBC, Telemundo and cable properties.
• FOOTBALL (AMERICAN): Budweiser and Bud Light are the official beer sponsors of 28 National Football League teams, and Budweiser is the official beer sponsor of the National Football League in Canada; Anheuser-Busch holds exclusive alcohol beverage and non-alcohol, malt-based beverage sponsor rights for the Super Bowl telecast through 2012; and exclusive alcohol beverage and non-alcohol, malt-based beverage sponsor of the Bowl Championship Series through 2010.
• FOOTBALL (SOCCER): Budweiser and Bud Light are the official beer sponsors of Major League Soccer and each of its 13 teams; Budweiser is the official beer sponsor of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
• BASEBALL: Budweiser and Bud Light are the official beer sponsors of Major League Baseball and 26 teams; Budweiser is the official beer sponsor of Major League Baseball in Panama.
• BASKETBALL: Bud Light is the official beer sponsor of the National Basketball Association and 26 teams; Budweiser is the official beer sponsor of the National Basketball Association in China, and Bud Light is the sponsor for that association in Mexico.
• GOLF: Michelob is the official sponsor of the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour, and golfer Sergio Garcia; Michelob Ultra is the official sponsor of the LPGA and golfers Lorie Kane, Grace Park and Natalie Gulbis.
• HOCKEY: Bud Light is the official beer sponsor of the National Hockey League and 21 U.S. teams.
• HORSE RACING: Budweiser Select is the official beer sponsor of Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks.
• NASCAR: Budweiser is the official beer sponsor of the Daytona International Speedway and the Daytona 500 and the exclusive telecast rights of the Daytona 500 through 2010 on Fox; Budweiser is the primary team sponsor of Gillett Evernham Motorsports, the No. 9 Budweiser Dodge and driver Kasey Kahne.
• MIXED MARTIAL ARTS: Bud Light is the official beer sponsor of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and World Extreme Cagefighting.