|Budweiser’s 38-year relationship with Major League Baseball has paid big dividends in terms of sponsorship recognition, according to the survey.
Thirty-eight seasons together have made Budweiser’s sponsorship of Major League Baseball the most recognized beer partnership in sports, according to the results of the 11th annual MLB sponsor loyalty survey conducted for SportsBusiness Journal by Turnkey Sports & Entertainment.
More than 48 percent of the fans who took part in the study, fielded last month during the playoffs, correctly identified Budweiser as the league’s official beer, a status it has held since 1980. That awareness level was two percentage points higher than Bud Light generated during our most recent NFL study and more than double the rate that Coors Light had with the NHL when that league was measured last season (see chart). Both of those deals are currently in their seventh season.
The sponsor loyalty series was established in 2007 and features similar annual studies of the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS, PGA Tour, NASCAR and the NCAA.
Beer was not the only beverage to resonate with baseball fans.
Coca-Cola enjoyed a 41 percent awareness level in it’s rookie year after taking over MLB’s official soda designation following the 2016 season. Pepsi had held that role since 1997, and in the 2016 study the brand’s 43.5 percent recognition level was the highest it had ever received in the sponsor loyalty series (see chart).
Coke received significant exposure as a result of its activation with both World Series teams, the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers. The brand title sponsors the Coca-Cola Right Field Pavilion in Dodger Stadium and Minute Maid Field’s Coca-Cola Front Porch, two entertainment areas that were visible on telecasts throughout the playoffs.
|Chevy’s activation included giving World Series MVP George Springer a new Silverado truck.
Finally, the road was not as smooth for Falken, the league’s tire sponsor. Although its recognition level among casual fans went from zero in 2015 to 13 percent in 2017, the three-year-old partnership was recognized by less than 12 percent of the respondents.
What Brands Do MLB Fans Consider Buying?
To read: 50 percent of MLB fans said they would be more likely to consider buying from MLB’s official tire company if they knew what tire brand had that designation. The rate decreased to 12 percent when considering only those MLB fans who did not know that Falken is MLB’s official tire.
|CATEGORY (mlb SPONSOR)||AMONG MLB FANS WHO CORRECTLY IDENTIFIED THE SPONSOR||among MLB FANS WHO DID NOT CORRECTLY IDENTIFY THE SPONSOR||DIFFERENCE|
|Insurance (Esurance*)||55%||15%||+40 pct. points|
|Tire (Falken)||50%||12%||+38 pct. points|
|Beer (Budweiser)||66%||30%||+36 pct. points|
|Bank (Bank of America)||66%||33%||+33 pct. points|
|Wireless (T-Mobile)||63%||30%||+33 pct. points|
|Pizza (Papa John’s)||73%||42%||+31 pct. points|
|Credit card (Mastercard)||76%||49%||+27 pct. points|
|Automotive (Chevrolet)||64%||40%||+24 pct. points|
|Sports drink (Gatorade)||78%||55%||+23 pct. points|
|Soft drink (Coca-Cola)||76%||59%||+17 pct. points|
What Brands Do Fans Think Are MLB Sponsors?
To read: 51 percent of MLB fans said they think Gatorade should be an MLB sponsor, compared to 22 percent who think rival Powerade should have an MLB deal. Those numbers became 65 percent and 28 percent, respectively, when considering only those MLB fans who correctly knew that Gatorade is MLB’s official sports drink.
|Among all MLB Fans||AMONG MLB FANS WHO CORRECTLY IDENTIFIED THE SPONSOR|
|mlb SPONSOR/COMPETITOR||RESPONSE RATES||DIFFERENCE||RESPONSE RATES||DIFFERENCE|
|Gatorade/Powerade||51% / 22%||+29 pct. pts.||65% / 28%||+37 pct. pts.|
|Coca-Cola/Pepsi||66% / 44%||+22 pct. pts.||75% / 39%||+36 pct. pts.|
|Budweiser/Miller Lite||66% / 46%||+20 pct. pts.||59% / 24%||+35 pct. pts.|
|Bank of America/Wells Fargo||40% / 22%||+18 pct. pts.||60% / 25%||+35 pct. pts.|
|Papa John’s/Domino’s||38% / 30%||+8 pct. pts.||54% / 30%||+24 pct. pts.|
|Mastercard/Visa||44% / 56%||-12 pct. pts.||59% / 47%||+12 pct. pts.|
|Chevrolet/Ford||40% / 38%||+2 pct. pts.||56% / 45%||+11 pct. pts.|
|Falken/Michelin||7% / 38%||-31 pct. pts.||24% / 39%||-15 pct. pts.|
|T-Mobile/AT&T||29% / 46%||-17 pct. pts.||44% / 36%||+8 pct. pts.|
|Esurance*/Geico||12% / 34%||-22 pct. pts.||38% / 30%||+8 pct. pts.|
Impact on Sampling and Support
Are you more or less likely to consider trying a product/service if that product/service is an official sponsor of MLB?
|Unaffected / less likely||42%||42%||48%||53%||60%||65%|
Are you more or less likely to consciously support a company by purchasing its products/services if the company is an official sponsor of MLB?
|Unaffected / less likely||38%||43%||45%||53%||59%||63%|
Are you more or less likely to recommend a product/service to a friend or family member if that product/service is an official sponsor of MLB?
|Unaffected / less likely||39%||47%||49%||53%||64%||64%|
Which of the following is an official sponsor of the MLB?
* Official MLB sponsor
^ Respondents were allowed to choose multiple responses.
NA: Not applicable; the company was not listed as a survey answer candidate in this particular year.
King of Beers
Budweiser's MLB partnership, which began in 1980, is the most recognized beer deal in sports.
|LEAGUE-BEER (PARTNER SINCE)||RECOGNITION RATE*|
|NFL-Bud Light (2011)||45.9%|
Bud Light (1998)
|PGA Tour-Michelob Ultra (1994)||30.0%|
|NASCAR-Coors Light (2008)*||29.8%|
|NHL-Coors Light (2011)||21.3%|
Falken, MLB's tire sponsor, is still trying to find traction among baseball fans.
|LEAGUE-TIRE (PARTNER SINCE)||RECOGNITION RATE*|
|PGA Tour-Bridgestone (2006)||31.3%|
A Coke and a Smile
Coca-Cola had a strong rookie year after replacing Pepsi as MLB's official soda.
|brand (sponsor history)|
|year||Coca-Cola (2017-present)||Pepsi (1997-2016)|
* Surveys were conducted during each property's most recent postseason, therefore data listed for MLS and NASCAR are from November 2016. Not all categories are tracked across all leagues. Response rates indicate the percentage of people polled who thought that the particular company or brand was the property's official sponsor in that category.