SBJ/Nov. 30-Dec. 6, 2015/Marketing and Sponsorship

Anheuser-Busch adds to content with NBA renewal

Anheuser-Busch InBev has signed another content-rich sponsorship deal in a four-year renewal with the NBA that gives the beer giant deeper digital content, new assets in USA Basketball and broader packaging rights.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the deal makes A-B the official beer partner of the NBA, and the new pact is considered to be among the league’s most lucrative. The deal continues a partnership that began in 1998.

Negotiations on the renewal began in earnest this spring and came under A-B’s new marketing leadership, led by Lucas Herscovici, vice president of consumer connections for A-B InBev, who has publicly warned properties that the brand is looking at more experience and engagement marketing assets. The brewer’s new five-year deal with the NFL is an example of the flexibility and content marketing for which the brand is looking.

Rights to USA Basketball will allow A-B to activate leading up to Rio.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
In the NBA renewal, the league will create new marketing content to be used by A-B across all of the league’s digital and social channels. A-B will also get the rights to limited game footage for use on its own digital and social channels, something brands value because it drives engagement.

In a similar result to A-B’s NFL deal, the brewer, which has 22 NBA team deals, will now be able to use team marks outside a home market. It doesn’t result in a change of any mile-radius marketing restrictions, but will allow A-B to sell Budweiser and Bud Light team-branded cans nationally as long as all 22 team-branded cans are offered collectively at the point of sale. A-B has said team-branded cans have been an effective sales tool.

The new agreement, which is effective immediately, also includes the WNBA and the D-League.

A major gain for A-B is the addition of rights to USA Basketball that will allow the company to activate leading up to the 2016 Rio Games as well as year-round activation opportunities. Previously, USA Basketball didn’t have a beer sponsor but the team should be a high-profile media darling around the Rio Games.

The deal also makes A-B a partner in all of the league’s major events including All-Star, the postseason, the Finals and the WNBA All-Star Game.

A-B’s Harbin brand already is a sponsor of NBA China. A-B is also increasing its global reach with the addition of its NBA rights in Brazil.

The deal comes just a few weeks after A-B signed a new deal with the NFL that also gives the brewer rights to use game footage on its own digital and social channels.

Though there are differences in A-B’s NFL and NBA deals, both reflect a new approach in A-B’s sports sponsorship strategy.

“The principles are the same,” Herscovici said. “We do not want partners that are based on logos and the things that were relevant 10 years ago. We are approaching them in a radically new way. It is all about content experience.”

A-B’s previous deal with the NBA was set to expire at the start of this season.

Budweiser will be the lead brand in the new deal, but A-B will also use the NBA to activate around its Bud Light brand. It is the first time A-B has activated around two brands in its NBA deal.

“A-B in general is having a deeper and more meaningful focus on storytelling,” said Kerry Tatlock, senior vice president of global marketing partnerships for the NBA. “We structured our partnership to produce a content series on NBA digital and social channels. They also have the opportunity to use game action footage on their own channels.”

Tatlock offered no specifics on the league-generated content, but the NBA will create 30 pieces of A-B-themed content per season. The deal does not include player endorsement rights.

Tatlock said that the limited game action footage granted to A-B will be used solely for marketing purposes.

“We are in development with them on the thematics similar to what we do with other partners,” she said. “We are not talking about carrying games or highlights. The footage is the backdrop, not the driver.”

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