SBD/January 6, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

Name Recognition: PBR Signs Deal To Become Official Beer Of ... The PBR

In what may be the most logical union ever struck between a sports property and a brand, the Professional Bull Riders and Pabst Blue Ribbon today will announce a three-year agreement making PBR the official beer of the PBR. The circuit will unveil its new sponsor Friday night at the Madison Square Garden Invitational in N.Y., releasing bulls from beneath a 10-foot tall replica of a PBR Tall Boy can. The brewery also will sponsor a Pabst Blue Ribbon Bull Award, handed out to the top scoring bull at each stop on the 29-event Built Ford Tough Series. At eight tour stops, PBR will host an in-arena “Pabst Party Zone,” where fans who are chosen via text-to-win and other sign-up opportunities will receive backstage access, upgraded seating and rider meet-and-greets. Neither PBR would reveal specific financial terms, but a source placed its value at about $1M annually for rights and required in-market activation. “There was obviously the connection with the name,” said Pabst Brewing Co. co-Owner Daren Metropoulos. “Everybody talks to us about, 'hey, you guys ought to be involved with PBR.' What better fit?" The PBR circuit has been without a national beer sponsor since '07, when A-B opted not to renew its deal. It brought in Tecate as a sponsor at some events last year, but was not able to expand that into a national deal. However, Jorge Cornejo, Tecate’s field marketing director, moved from Tecate-parent Heineken to Pabst late last year. One of his first suggestions to the Metropoulos brothers and Pabst CMO Bryan Crowley was that they connect PBR to the PBR.

CHANGING ITS STRATEGY: Pabst had done little to foster the profile of its brands in recent years, though Metropolous and his brother, Evan, have shown a desire to change that, bringing on Will Ferrell to tout Old Milwaukee and Snoop Dogg to pitch Colt 45. “PBR and PBR is the most logical partnership in the beer business or the sports business, but we could never get anywhere with them in the past,” said PBR President & COO Sean Gleason. “The business was run without much of a vision or a marketing budget. So there wasn’t much interest in them to do anything, let alone with PBR. They’re taking a new approach under new ownership. Once they took a look at the opportunity it didn’t take long to get this done." There was one small hurdle the bull circuit had to get past. PBR does not buy traditional, national TV advertising, so there will not be Pabst spots during PBR’s events on NBC and CBS Sports. “It’s a hole, admittedly, in terms of activation dollars for media,” Gleason said. “But most of what we had with Bud Light was local and on-site activation, so it’s not a gaping hole. The (lack of) media didn’t scare us, because they don’t do it. It’s not just us. It’s not a function of budget. It’s a function of what their brand is. It’s not one that you put in someone’s face with network advertising units." Gleason added, "From a brand perspective, half the country thinks PBR stands for Pro Bull Riders and the other half thinks it’s Pabst Blue Ribbon. People are going to connect PBR and PBR, with or without a TV spot. What we don’t have in media spending will be more than offset in branding by connecting the two.” The Metropoulos brothers both pointed to a comfortable alignment between the brands. “I don’t know a whole lot of PBR fans that drink Stella Artois or Corona Light,” said Evan Metropoulos. “It resonates. ... We find the fans of the PBR to be very authentic, just like our fans.”
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