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Volume 27 No. 26
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SBJ Marketing: Beer Brands Stay Active During Pandemic

Welcome to the debut of SBJ Marketing, where each Tuesday, we’ll offer news, insight and analysis about marketing, sponsorship and advertising. Colleagues John Ourand (Media), Michael Smith (Colleges), and Ben Fischer (Football) are already writing informative newsletters; we hope this one will be just as vital. 

 

WORDS OF WISDOM

  • “Don't tell me how good you make it; tell me how good it makes me." -- Leo Burnett 

  

CONSTELLATION HOOKS UP WITH WWE

  • MillerCoors hasn’t been spending on new sponsorships for some time, and longtime chief industry benefactor Anheuser-Busch InBev is busily trimming its extensive property roster. Additionally, it’s a time when no brewer is selling much at the largely empty sports venues they sponsor. All of which is helping to make Constellation the hot date in the suds category for its assortment of Mexican brands, including Corona, Modelo and Pacifico, for which it has been selectively matchmaking, at least by category standards.

  • So what’s Constellation’s latest sponsorship hookup? It’s not with a stick-and-ball property, but with WWE for its Corona, Modelo and Victoria labels. Under the deal, being largely activated next year, Constellation gets category exclusivity with the annual SummerSlam pay-per-view, WWE’s second-biggest event after WrestleMania, and one that’s nicely timed for the midst of the heaviest beer-consumption season.

  • As “Official Beer of SummerSlam,” the brewer will sponsor a match within the PPV broadcast. WWE talent that is yet to be determined will make appearances and do social media. Those Constellation brands will support with digital and social efforts on WWE outlets, point of sale displays and TV ads on the “Monday Night Raw” and “Friday Night Smackdown” shows, which are favorites among 18-49 Hispanic males.

  • The new deal follows a test run by Constellation at WrestleMania in April, through which Modelo leveraged a platform honoring the pandemic contributions of first responders and front-line health-care workers.  “The [WrestleMania] audience was strong, and there were no other sports on at the time, but it was also about the engagement and reach we got using [WWE’s] talent," said Rene Ramos, Constellation VP/Field, Lifestyle & Experiential Marketing. “That engagement and their social media strength was key for us. ... It allowed us to tap into a different audience segment that we weren’t effectively reaching."

  • WWE (and every other property) has been chasing Constellation for more than three years, a pursuit that included a meeting with wrestling legend Ric Flair on South Beach during the last Super Bowl. So other than a few Coronas with “The Nature Boy," what got WWE a date with the new prom queen at a time when new sponsorships are as common as a 50-yard-line ticket at MetLife Stadium? “We did that [WrestleMania] deal, which included a TV spot and four WWE personalities in about a week, so I’d say their urgency and nimbleness really showed us something," Ramos said. 

  • The pandemic has been catastrophic for many businesses. For beer and spirits, not so much. Ramos said sales will be up for the year in the high single digits or possibly the low double digits. “We’ve been rethinking how we’re engaging consumers," he said. “You have to bring value now, more than ever."

 

DIRECT-TO-CONSUMER GETS THUMBS UP FROM BREWERS

  • Remembering that some leagues were founded by and for those making and selling suds, it’s no exaggeration to call beer the lifeblood of sports business. Therefore, any distribution shift is worthy of note. To date, the pandemic is the best thing that ever happened for direct-to-consumer beer sales. 

  • Heineken USA CMO Jonnie Cahill called it an “explosion of e-com" that has grown 8x domestically this year for his brand. He termed it an “extremely undeveloped market," noting that in the U.S., e-commerce accounts for just 0.5% of overall alcohol sales, compared to 6% in the U.K. Heineken has recovered to the point where Cahill is now projecting his U.S. unit will achieve 90% of its pre-pandemic sales goal this year. “The closing of bars hurt us ... but if you’d offered me back in March what we have now, I would have signed on, for sure," he said.

  • Still, we’re just at the beginning of beer brands using their sports IP to push direct sales even harder. As a Veterans Stadium beer vendor in my youth, I took particular note of Anheuser-Busch TV creative with a hawker pushing the BudLight.com/delivery URL as hard as the alcoholic beverages he’s carrying.

  • As DTC beer continues to grow, with the help of direct sellers like Drizly and Thirstie, we’d look for more direct use of sports IP, perhaps even pass through, as permitted by the always-byzantine alcohol regulations. To date, it’s been little more than a URL, whenever possible.

  • “Consumer habits are changing, people are more accustomed to Amazon than ever, and we’ve started to use a lot of team inventory to get that direct sales message across," said A-B InBev VP/Partnerships, Beer Culture & Community Nick Kelly.

  • Constellation's Rene Ramos also noted that a Drizly discount coupon was part of Modelo's WrestleMania marketing effort: “E-commerce has experienced around 10 years’ worth of growth in about five months. The volume is still relatively small, but we’re putting more muscle behind that. Every activation we do now has some e-com component -- it’s become mandatory."

 

Bud Light recently promoted its DTC services using a stadium beer vendor

 

ANALYSIS OF MLB SEASON SHOWS SHIFT IN BRAND INVOLVEMENT

  • An MLB season delayed and then shortened by COVID-19 meant a noticeable shift in the brands that fans saw on game telecasts in 2020. An analysis by SportsAtlas’ Will Cavanaugh shows that while some brands opted to sit out the season or dramatically reduce their ad spend, other brands saw opportunity and jumped at the chance to be associated with new inventory such as seat covers, virtual on-field signage and the pitcher’s mound.

  • New players to team deals included Blue-Emu, Credible, Quicken Loans, Beats Electronics, Assurance Mortgage, Monkey Knife Fight and FanDuel. With 13 team deals and a league-level deal, Blue-Emu was arguably the most noticeable entrant of 2020. Online loan marketplace Credible also made a splash, partnering with 10 teams for the first time. 

  • Nike was also among the brands seeing opportunity, jumping from 12 deals with signage in 2019 to 23 in 2020. Guaranteed Rate, the naming-rights partner for the White Sox’s ballpark, doubled down on their MLB investment by expanding from two teams to 13. Other brands increasing their involvement included Michelob, Camping World and Marathon Oil.

  • Unsurprisingly, many brands eliminated their involvement for 2020, including Maui Jim Sunglasses, DAZN, Oakley, Whole Foods and Ollie’s Bargain Outlet. Brands reducing their involvement included Gravely Lawn Mowers, Funai, Uber and Papa John’s. Meanwhile, StubHub shifted from owning signage with all 30 teams to a portfolio consisting primarily of large-market teams.

  • DraftKings reduced involvement at the team level, but the DFS platform struck a league-level deal. Daily fantasy brands Monkey Knife Fight and FanDuel took advantage of DraftKings’ pullback and struck three team deals.

 

 

SPEED READS

  • Back in 2004, baseball purists lost their minds when MLB tried to place 6-by-6-inch "Spider-Man" movie promos on the bases and a version in on-deck circles during a weekend series of games at 15 ballparks. This week in SBJ, I talked to some execs involved with that failed effort now that the pandemic has made on-field branding commonplace.

  • After the Lakers won a record-tying 17th NBA championship on Sunday, Nike released an ad via Wieden + Kennedy that “juxtaposes success and loss over the past season” in a year of “extreme upheaval from the coronavirus pandemic and the racial injustice that continues to plague the country,” per Ad Age. The spot, titled “You Can’t Stop LA,” features Anthony Davis and LeBron James, as well as scenes featuring COVID testing, masks and players standing up for Black Lives Matter. Missing from the ad? Any direct reference to Kobe Bryant.

  • My colleague Liz Mullen today reported that Browns QB Baker Mayfield has become an investor in and endorser of CBD company Beam. Mayfield joins Danica Patrick and golfer Billy Horschel as athlete investors/endorsers for the brand.

  • The Nike LeBron 8 “South Beach” -- a fan-favorite from LeBron James’ signature line -- is “reportedly making a comeback in 2021,” per Footwear News. The Twitter account @soleheatonfeet shared an image of the shoe, which was originally released in October 2010 as a nod to James’ first season with the Heat. Nike has not yet confirmed the return.

  • Steelers wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster teamed with Salud Juicery to create “JuJu Juice” for his eponymous foundation, which “helps inner-city youth as well as the city of Pittsburgh,” per TribLive.com. Ten Four Social founder & President Rachel Maga, who works with Salud, first contacted the foundation about the opportunity. Salud has since “donated $10,000 and part of the proceeds to the foundation.” Maga said that a “second part to the partnership” will come in November.

 

 

 

 

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  • SBJ Unpacks (Monday through Friday)

 

Something on the marketing beat catch your eye? Tell us about it. Reach out to either me (tlefton@sportsbusinessjournal.com), Ted Keith (tkeith@sportsbusinessjournal.com) or Austin Karp (akarp@sportsbusinessjournal.com) and we'll share the best of it. Also contributing to this newsletter is Olivia Green (ogreen@sportsbusinessdaily.com).