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Volume 26 No. 47
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A-B InBev Sees Opportunity To Become Esports' "Official Beer"

A-B InBev Head of U.S. Marketing Nick Kelly said that the brewer recently trademarked the "official beer of esports" phrase because it saw an opportunity to leverage the fractured nature of the space to try to own it for the company. A-B has deals in the esports space with Overwatch League and the NBA 2K League, and multiple reports emerged this week indicating that the company had made the trademark filing. Kelly said, "The sport is so fractured. It’s not like the NFL; I could never be the official beer of the NFL without doing a deal with them. But no one owns esports, so it’s an opportunity for us to come in there and create a space that we can play in that transcends everything from Call of Duty to Fortnite, 2K League or Overwatch League.” Kelly said that A-B intends to use the phrase for mainly digital advertising as well as potentially at retail. He admitted he is getting a lot of pitches from various esports entities for sponsorship, but that more are from teams than leagues. That is due to some leagues being worried about the beer category given their younger demographics. However, Kelly said that OWL owner Activision Blizzard was “sophisticated” enough to know some of its fans would enjoy a beer deal. During its first OWL event activation at the Dallas Homestand Weekend in late April, A-B found that fans of the league are “not young, they’re well over 21 and all looking for a similar type experience where they have food and beverage.”

ESPORTS HAS BEEN AN EYE-OPENER: For its OWL activation, A-B is bringing in its Bud Knight character, which Kelly said has been interesting in that the character fits in more at esports events than stick-and-ball events because there are other people dressed up. He said that esports has been an eye-opener for A-B because the space is so nascent and fans are at times so different from stick-and-ball fans that they have had to educate their partners on the opportunity of the space and educate fans about basic things like going to get a beer during halftime. He added, “For us, the reason for the filing is more than anything we truly believe in esports. We’ve been investing for at least three to three and a half years and as far as we can tell, we’re pretty much the only (beer) player in that space. We’re really impressed with what MillerCoors did at the E3 (gaming conference) but (A-B has been) actually contributing to the sport with sponsoring teams and leagues, so for us it is an opportunity to put a flag in the ground that proves we are the official beer of the sport.”

For more coverage of the business of esports, visit our partners, esportsobserver.com.