SBJ/February 26 - March 4, 2007/Marketingsponsorship

New four-year, eight-figure agreement is Anheuser-Busch’s longest, biggest with MLS

Fresh off successfully sponsoring soccer’s biggest international event, the FIFA World Cup, Anheuser-Busch plans to expand its commitment to the sport in the United States.

The deal covers the Mexican national team
and the rest of SUM’s portfolio.

The beer company has completed a four-year agreement covering Soccer United Marketing’s entire portfolio, including Major League Soccer, the U.S. national team, the Mexican national team, Chivas de Guadalajara, InterLiga (a Mexican club-team tournament) and SuperLiga, the new competition between MLS and Mexican club teams this summer.

The deal, which SUM President Doug Quinn valued in the low eight figures, is larger and longer than any deal in Anheuser-Busch’s 11-year history with MLS. It also highlights a shifting strategy at SUM, as the organization moves to sell sponsorships that cover its entire portfolio of six soccer properties.

“Budweiser made it clear they wanted it all,” Quinn said. “They wanted to own soccer in America.”

Unlike Budweiser’s previous partnerships with SUM, this deal includes no MLS media rights because those rights are now owned by league broadcast partners ESPN, Fox Soccer Channel, Univision and HDNet. Also absent is a spot on the back of the Los Angeles Galaxy’s jersey, placement the company had held for several years.

Instead, Budweiser gets intellectual property rights, player rights, hospitality and some local marketing rights.

The company and SUM are discussing whether to continue the “Hispanic Heritage Night” program they have run in each team’s market during the last eight years. Still, SUM executive vice president Kathy Carter expects Anheuser-Busch will put more emphasis on soccer at retail and at the local level.

A key factor motivating Budweiser to expand its commitment is its belief in soccer’s ability to reach the Hispanic demographic, said Bruce Hudson, director of international sports marketing at Anheuser-Busch.

“With the Latino population growing in this country, we think this sport is an effective way to reach that audience,” Hudson said, “especially as MLS looks to partner with the Mexican first division and thinks of unique ways to reach that market.”

Budweiser faced more competition for the beer category than it had in the past. Coors, which previously held the sponsorship rights to Chivas, was also in contention.

Budweiser is the first partner announced for SuperLiga, which the league hopes will become as significant in the Americas as the UEFA Champions League is in Europe. The league expects to add seven to nine more SuperLiga sponsors in the next two years.

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