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Volume 21 No. 2
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A-B’s D’Sylva on beer, media rights and marketing strategy

Money from beer brands sponsoring sports at venues and in media has been so meaningful for so long that some consider beer to be as endemic a category as athletic footwear and sports apparel. Shortly after completing the recent six-year extension of Budweiser’s MLB sponsorship, Anheuser-Busch’s Blaise D’Sylva sat down with SportsBusiness Journal’s Terry Lefton at the MLB Fan Cave in New York to discuss the symbiotic nexus of sports and beer.

What’s the state of the domestic beer market?

Blaise D’Sylva said A-B is targeting opportunities with music.
D’SYLVA: Overall, the domestic beer market has been tough and sales have been relatively flat for a few years. We have had some recent success with some new products, like Bud Light Platinum, which has now topped a million barrels. Bud Light Lime-A-Rita (a ready-made margarita) has also made some noise as we try to recapture some of the young adults who are drinking hard liquor as an alternative to beer consumption.

Media rights are certainly the healthiest part of the sports economy. As someone who has seen both sides of the equation, are you surprised that rights fees continue to escalate?

D’SYLVA: The good news for us is that we do a lot of multiyear media deals, so we are somewhat insulated there. The rights fees really more immediately hit the consumer first in their cable or satellite bills.

But brands will ultimately be the ones bearing the brunt of those escalating rights fees, won’t they?

D’SYLVA: As an industry observer, the escalation is more amazing with every new deal. To be fair, sports are still one of the best places to reach our audience. But I think until the consumer says something about the size of their cable or satellite TV bills, it will probably continue. Either that or the affiliate fees will just get so large there will be some protest there.   
It is a time of year when everyone is doing projections and budgeting. Where will A-B spend more marketing dollars next year?

D’SYLVA: About where you would think, which is digital and social in keeping with changing media consumption patterns. Even as we try to figure all that out, we know that TV is not dead. It still works effectively for us. Outside of sports, we are investing heavily in music with our “Made In America” platform. We are putting a lot behind music now, whether it is in sponsorship or in the media space, with things like our exclusive deal with Mark Cuban’s AXS TV. Music and sports are the two biggest passion points, so we look for ways to connect those and how to come with a bigger, better and more relevant message for our target consumers. You look at what we’ve done at the Super Bowls for a few years with the Bud Light Hotel — that’s been all about mixing sports and music.