Beer Sponsorship

Beer sponsorships are big money, and can come with big pull (who can forget Budweiser’s campaign to ensure fans could buy beer at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where alcohol in stadiums was previously illegal). To give you an idea of why such a thing may be possible – or even desirable for an organization like FIFA – just check out these numbers:  


Compelo also notes a few fun facts to keep in mind as we go forward: 

  • 84% of brands opt to focus on a single territory rather than a worldwide partnership to attract new customers. 
  • Team deals are currently the most favoured type of sponsorship for alcohol brands, accounting for 53.7% of the total, followed by sports federations and associations (13.2%), venues (11.7%) and events (10%). 
  • Europe is the biggest beneficiary of this and has the highest deal volume, with a 59.1% share, followed by North America with 20%. 
  • An estimated $764.5m (£600m) will spent by alcohol brands in backing sports events and clubs this year, with the top ten brands forking out the vast majority (87.6%) of this 

Compelo’s article was largely based on research done by Sportcal.



Anheuser-Busch owns two and is the American distributor another one of the brands we’ll be discussing today. Those three include Budweiser, Bud Light, and Stella Artois. This company has an American market share of 45%. A-B's umbrella also includes other well-known brands like Shock Top, Michelob, and Goose Island. 

Long one of the biggest spenders in sponsorship, especially in the sports sector, Anheuser-Busch rolled out a new contract model beginning late last year. Known for spending in the mega millions (the brand spent an estimated $350 million on US-based sponsorship deals in 2016), Anheuser-Busch will be restructuring its renewal and new deals going forward. This new model begins with a base fee (which will likely vary based on league, sport, event type, etc.) and includes incentives for performance. “Performance” will be all-encompassing, as well; it could mean a team playoff appearance, or a new digital platform to engage and enhance A-B brand awareness, or a boost in attendance. Anheuser-Busch will be working on each contract individually to find the best fit with each partner. As of April 2018, four of A-B's partnerships were operating on the new model: New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Timberwolves, LA Dodgers, and NASCAR. 



Budweiser has its fingers – or should we say its brews – in a lot of different pies. Typically, Budweiser is affiliated with the top teams, leagues, and entertainment opportunities – simply because there isn’t much this brand can’t afford. It is always interesting with parent company Anheuser-Busch chooses to go with another brand as the primary at any property, but Budweiser is still getting plenty of attention all around the world. 


Easing In... 

Two deals that (rightfully or not) will pale in comparison to those discussed later are the brewer’s contracts with the Chicago White Sox and its naming rights to the Budweiser Gardens arena in London, Ontario. We know – you're asking how a deal with a major league team, or even naming rights can be small potatoes. Let us tell you – you'll soon see.  

Though it also has a deal at the league level, Budweiser partnered with the Chicago White Sox earlier this year to make the brand the team’s official domestic beer sponsor. This is a multi-year deal, and probably the best activation to come out of the partnership this past season were the 10,000 White Sox onesies handed out at the game against the Red Sox. 

The Budweiser Gardens is the home facility for an OHL team, the London Knights. Budweiser took over title sponsorship of the arena in 2012; it was previously known as the John Labatt Centre, after the founder of Labatt Brewing Company (also an A-B InBev brand). 



One particularly impressive area of sponsorship dominance for Budweiser (and Anheuser-Busch, generally) is within the world of league sponsorship. Leagues globally with A-B InBev sponsorships include: 

  • NBA (Budweiser)
  • NFL (Bud Light) 
  • Premier League (Budweiser) 
  • Football Association (Budweiser) 
  • FIFA (Budweiser)  
  • MLB (Budweiser)  

In the United States, of the Big 4 leagues, only the NHL sports a beer partner outside Anheuser-Busch (Coors Light). Just down in the next tier, the MLS’ official beer partner is Heineken; this deal is discussed elsewhere in this analysis. 

Some of these partnerships are extremely long lasting; Budweiser has been an official partner of the MLB and FIFA for over 30 years. Several are quite a bit more recent; Anheuser-Busch came to terms with the FA in 2015 with an expansion earlier this year, while the Premier League signed on only last month on an initial three year deal. Both of those deals supplanted Carlsburg with Budweiser as each body’s Official Beer. Also in 2018: A-B finally received agreements from the MLB and the NBA to use player names and imagery in its advertising. According to SportsPro, this has been a 60-year effort. 

Budweiser is also not afraid to spend on its sponsorship activation (as you may have noticed earlier). In fact, the brewer’s activation of its FIFA sponsorship at the World Cup earlier this year resulted in the brand being the most talked about on Twitter. This was done using a multi-pronged approach: Budweiser was everywhere with its “Light Up the FIFA World Cup” campaign. It included special Red Light Up cups for every beer served at the World Cup stadiums, watch parties worldwide, and special promotional items sold globally. 



Budweiser, and Anheuser-Busch, work hard to ensure the brand provides relevant and engaging sponsorship and experiential activation. The brand used to do so in partnership with Jay Z at the Made in America Festival, though Budweiser pulled out earlier this year after seven years of sponsorship, including the launch of the event. One reason why may be due to the launch of A-B's own event: Budweiser Live. The brewer planned to host this pop-up at many Budweiser-sponsored events, including through its partnerships with the NBA and MLB mentioned above.  For 2018, the plan was to bring Budweiser Live to over 20 events – will we see an expansion next year? 


Bud Light 

Our biggest spender in the beer category (by a wide margin) is Bud Light, and that gigantic figure is due in part to several extremely large and visible deals. As indicated above, Bud Light does hold the rights to the biggest league in the US – the NFL. This partnership, discussed more in the following section, has allowed the brand to branch out in numerous directions all related to this media darling entity. 


Negative News 

But it’s not all easy going over at Bud Light and Anheuser-Busch. In the past two years, the brand has seen two high profile drops and one very visible controversy.  

In late 2017, the Boston Red Sox (in a move many Bostonians applauded) dropped Bud for local brand Samuel Adams. At the time, this could be seen as an anomaly, as it likely always was a bit weird for fans to see Bud Light posted up all over Fenway rather than the brewer synonymous with the city. However, just a month later, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) also dropped Bud Light – this time in favor of Modelo Especial. Interestingly enough, while Modelo is owned by A-B, its US rights are controlled by Constellation Brands (who we discuss later, as that conglomerate also controls Corona and Pacifico). Statements from the UFC president indicate excitement at the prospect of a new sponsor – perhaps for the opportunity to do activations once declined. 

In the same time frame, the NFL has been subject to player protests stemming from racial injustice in America. These protests have polarized players, fans, and sponsors alike. Bud Light, along with other official sponsors of the league, offered the following statement: 

“We have many long-term sports partnerships, including our NFL sponsorship, and while we may not agree on everything, we still believe in the power of sport to bring people together and overcome their differences. We have no plans to end our NFL sponsorship.” 

Bud Light did set up a hotline for fans to call in with their opinions on the protests, but has done so for other issues as well. Many sponsors (like owners, league executives, and the public) have not offered much support for the players’ cause. 


Highly Visible  

On a more positive note, Bud Light’s partnership with the NFL has allowed the brand to do a lot of really fun and engaging activations – like this year’s launch of the Bud Light Super Bowl Music Fest. Since Bud Light’s deal is through the 2022 Super Bowl, we should see at least four more of these festivals like the one that took place in Atlanta earlier this year. The brewer partnered with On Location Experiences – the official hospitality partner of the NFL – to plan, produce, and launch this event. We love us some successful cobranding. Gold stars all around. 

Assuming this deal runs through to expiration (by no means guaranteed or even likely), Bud Light will have held Official Beer status in the NFL for 11 years; the previous holder was Coors Light – though Bud Light beat the incumbent out with a $1.4 billion deal in 2011.  New cans featuring most of the NFL team logos are launched yearly; check out 2017's version:

beer sponsorship

Source: Anheuser-Busch

While sister brand Budweiser has FIFA locked up, and Heineken has a long relationship with UEFA, Bud Light has been able to make inroads into the soccer market with one large – and recurring more often – tournament: Copa America. Even better: the 100th anniversary – the Copa America Cententario – was hosted in the United States. Bud Light was able to use the tournament to reach Hispanic beer drinkers – Americans and plenty of individuals from the other participating countries – with its Barra Centenario experience. It had numbers you won’t believe: 100% positive sentiment from more than 2,000 attendees. Please tell us the last time you remember every single attendee at any event agreeing positively. We’ll wait. 


Up and Coming  

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Anheuser-Busch investment into any new sports property is considered a sign of legitimacy, as SportsBusinessDaily points out. Assuming that’s the case, we have three up and coming entities worth consideration thanks to Bud Light sponsorship. One will not surprise you – but the others may. 

On the “totally saw that coming” side of things, Bud Light signed a deal with Monumental Sports & Entertainment for sponsorship of its Wizards District Gaming for the team’s first season in the NBA2K league. Bud Light is getting quite involved quickly – the brewer is sponsoring two shows centered around the team as well as a tournament hosted at Capital One Arena and title sponsorship of team watch parties. To be honest, it would be more odd if Bud Light didn’t get involved with esports at this point. 

Back on the football field, Bud Light has also signed as the presenting sponsor for six live broadcasts of the American Flag Football League on the NFL Network. According to SportsBusinessDaily, Bud Light has previous involvement in the sport, so maybe we shouldn’t have been as surprised as we were by this deal. Then again, what are the numbers like for a flag football broadcast?  

This last one is for you, die-hard NFL fans. Bud Light can sponsor YOU – or at least, maybe, and your Super Bowl party (not your athletic prowess). Will Hanlon posted a great story on Medium on how he was able to work with Bud Light through a local distributor to make sure his was the coolest party on the blog. Just look at that swag. 


Stella Artois 

Stella Artois, like its unique bottles and chalices, does sponsorship a bit differently from most of the other brands included in this analysis. The brand doesn’t have a foothold in many major leagues globally, but it has or does partnered with very specific sporting events matching the brand for fit. Similarly, Stella takes the same approach with its entertainment and experiential partnerships. 



On the sponsorship side, Stella is most well-known for its past and current partnerships in tennis and horseracing. The brand also made a name for itself during its partnership with, which featured a Super Bowl commercial starring Matt Damon. 


That campaign has been followed by “Joie de Bière,” a much more light-hearted campaign that will be discussed further later. 

Stella Artois’ sports sponsorships have changed dramatically during the past decade. Two major partnerships were ended – those with the Kentucky Derby (you can find out more how that event has changed under “Constellation Brands”) and the Queen's Club Championships (a Wimbledon preparatory tournament and 30-year partner). Stella has, however, continued its association with that most vaunted of tennis Grand Slams: Wimbledon. It first became the Official Beer in 2014, six years after pulling out of Queen’s. 

A current sponsorship in the world of horse racing is that with the Melbourne Racing Club’s Caulfield Cup Carnival in Australia. This partnership began earlier this year – just as Stella’s affiliation with the Kentucky Derby was ending. Stella Artois served as the Official Beer of the Kentucky Derby for six years – since 2012 – and featured not only the official designation but several affiliated events 



The Belgian brew is involved with several festivals in different categories. Stella has deals with Sundance Film Festival, the Los Angeles Film Festival, Art Basel in Miami, Mint Polo in the Park, the LA Times’ The Taste, and several food festivals in the US hosted by Food & Wine. Over the past few years, Stella has also set up experiential activations at events like Screenfields Film Festival and the Taste Festival, as well as hosting “Don’t Rush Hours” at happy hours around the US. Typically, Stella’s signature chalice is included in some way, though the experiential activations held at American food festivals hosted “Le Village-inspired pop-up bars. 



Like Bud Light, Heineken is one of the largest spenders on sponsorship worldwide. Currently, the brand does enjoy a high level of awareness of its sponsorships – 58% of beer drinkers are aware of Heineken’s sponsorship of the UEFA Champions League – but is aiming to turn that awareness into pints. Of Champions League viewers, 5% have drank Heineken – and the brand would be happy with a 1% increase in that number. For context, Champions League viewership is estimated was at 180 million in 2015 

Also like Anheuser-Busch, Heineken is the parent company of several brands. In addition to the flagship, Amstel, Dos Equis, and Tecate all fall under the Heineken umbrella. And all have specific targets and approaches to sponsorship. Jonnie Cahill, Heineken CMO, offered these insights on the latter two brands:  

“You’ll see work coming from Dos Equis in the college football space in the fall, which we’ve just seen the first cut of, and they’re really exciting. 

The Tecate [brand], as well, is a big play for us. It is the authority in boxing. We [were] very excited that Canelo and GGG [fought] in Las Vegas [last weekend]. It’s the fight everybody had been waiting for—I think not only boxing fans but people all over. Tecate [was] all over that, from the perspective of our partnerships with both Golden Boy and GGG.  

Meanwhile, Formula 1, with its intersection between drinking and driving, offers Heineken an opportunity to talk responsibility. In 2016, the brand introduced its “When You Drive, Never Drink” campaign – which featured a Formula 1 icon, Sir Jackie Stewart. The brewer has a long-standing dedication to responsible drinking, and this campaign was completely clear; how could one fail to understand the simple messaging?  

beer sponsorship

Source: Heineken

Other large partnerships for Heineken include Formula 1, the 2019 Rugby World Cup, and James Bond Spectre. Heineken definitely wants to be known for its big-name sponsorships, but the brand wants to do so in a way where the people see the benefit. Check out Jonnie Cahill’s summary of the brand’s partnership strategy: 

“For us, the strategy is to have big iconic partnerships, as you’d expect with a premium international brand, but also to work hard on the ground—to do things that are relevant for people in their city and their town, in their neighborhood—to give content for the trade. It’s a mixed strategy for us. 

Heineken also goes beyond sports – with more than just James Bond. The brewer is also a sponsor of festivals Shaky Knees, BottleRock, and the South Beach Wine & Food Festival (among others). It partnered with “The Late Late Show with James Corden” on a segment, and circles back to sport with a few tennis deals (International Tennis Hall of Fame, Memphis Open, etc). 


The World’s Favorite Sport 

Heineken not only sponsors soccer worldwide but activates worldwide. While we’ve already discussed Anheuser-Busch's hold on FIFA, Heineken owns soccer elsewhere. As the sponsors of UEFA Champions League, the brand offered fans and guests immersive and special experiences. Many clubs participating in Champions League are worldwide brands – think Real Madrid, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain – and have fans clamoring for ways to feel closer to the club and this tournament. Heineken found a way to satisfy that desire: the brewer promoted and organized a Trophy Tour, which traveled from Brazil to Congo to Indonesia this past year. It also flew 1,200 fans from over 60 countries to watch the Champions League Final in London. The brand has buy-in from employees as well, offering them the chance to participate in an internal table football competition – where finalists travel to the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam for the global finals. 

beer sponsorship

Source: Heineken

Heineken has several partners at the team or venue level in Europe as well. Team partners include Sheffield United (English Championship League), Manchester City (EPL), and West Ham United (EPL).The brewer is also the naming rights partner of Huddersfield Town FC (EPL)’s home stadium. 

In the Americas, Heineken is working to partner with multiple organizations. It signed on with Major League Soccer as the Official Beer of the league in 2014; there has since been a five-year expansion. MLS teams LAFC, NYCFC, Orlando City FC, DC United, and five others are also Heineken partners. With LAFC, Heineken staked its claim to the local and domestic beer categories, player marketing rights, and a branded area in the team’s brand-new stadium when built. 

Slightly further south, Heineken has also partnered with CONMEBOL Libertadores Bridgestone, a tournament featuring 47 of the best teams in the 10 member organizations of CONMEBOL. This partnership is under the Amstel brand. 


Other Sports 

Heineken is working to make its name in sports outside of soccer – even saying the football sponsorship industry has gotten too crowded. Other major sports partnerships include Formula E and rugby. Just a couple months ago, Heineken announced its new deal with ABB FIA Formula E Championship. This contract began with the current 2018/19 season and will run for five years; Heineken joins with the designation “Official Beer and Cider Partner.” Like soccer, Heineken will be activating heavily, especially at key races in Santiago de Chile, Mexico City, Rome, and New York City. 

Shortly before the brand’s statement on soccer overcrowding, Heineken signed on to the upcoming Rugby World Cup, to be held next year in Japan. Heineken has a long history with the sport of rugby, and is pleased to see the sport expand in chatter following the 2015 World Cup. Outside its event sponsorship, the brewer also has deals with the national federation of Spain and European professional rugby. In Spain, Heineken has taken over title sponsorship of the Men’s Honor Division (now to be known as the Heineken League). Similarly, the European Champions Cup has been renamed the Heineken Champions Cup for a four-year term starting during this 2018/19 season. Heineken previously sponsored this tournament as the Heineken Cup from 1995 – 2014. There was no title sponsor for the interim years. 



Irish brewer Guinness topped the list for most appealing sponsors in the country in 2016. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Guinness scored particularly well with male respondents. However, just because Guinness is highly sought-after in Ireland does not mean the brand limits its sponsorship activity to that island. While Guinness does have clearly defined interests, the brand’s deals reach into Europe and across the pond. 



Guinness has a particularly large presence in the sport of rugby. Earlier this month, it was reported Guinness would taking over the title sponsorship of the Six Nations tournament. While the fee for the first year is set at £6 million (lower than in previous years, including last year during NatWest’s title sponsorship deal), but rises annually. Though the fee will double by the end of the six-year term, this contract does represent a decline in the tournament’s monetary value for sponsors.  

Also in the title sponsorship realm is Guinness’ deal with the Pro14 (formerly the Pro12). Participating countries in the Six Nations tournament include England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France and Italy. The Pro14 operates similarly to the UEFA Champions League, featuring top-performing professional teams from multiple countries. The current iteration includes clubs hailing from Ireland, Italy, Scotland, South Africa, and Wales. 

Guinness advertising has made use of its rugby partnerships, including this spot featuring Gareth Thomas. 

Outside tournaments, Guinness partners with four rugby associations from the British Isles, including England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Campaign did an in-depth look at the brewer’s activations with two of these organizations just last year. Both included large installations at matches, as well as player and social media tie-ins. 



Europe’s other (and, we suppose, actual) favorite sport is also a priority for Guinness – though mostly outside the Continent. The brewer has two primary deals – one set to expire soon, while the other is a bit more ambiguous on the terms.  

Guinness signed a five-year deal to be the primary sponsor (namely, presenting and lead sponsor when mentioned) of the International Champions Cup in 2014. In the two tournaments prior to this deal, Guinness held title sponsorship and was only held in North America. For this five-year contract, Guinness’ designations are valid only in North America, as the tournament was looking to expand beyond this continent. 

In Africa, Guinness sponsors the broadcasts of English Premier League matches on Saharan Africa’s DSTV network. Recently, the brewer has started a campaign featuring Africans – athletes and regular people – who have overcome obstacles to succeed in sport or life. 



Like its partnership with the International Champions Cup, Guinness concentrates on event sponsorships in the US. Two recently noteworthy deals were with Tough Mudder 2017 – the US season – and Baltimore’s Beer Week. Guinness chose a specific brand to support Tough Mudder: the Blonde American Lager. This partnership was activated onsite in the “Mudder Village” areas. Guinness also proved to be a trendsetter (the city hopes) in Baltimore, as the brewer’s affiliation with Beer Week marked the first time a major brewer signed a partnership contract in the event’s decade of existence.  


Constellation Brands

Constellation Brands oversees the US distribution of two brands we’ll be looking at in-depth: Corona and Pacifico. It also manages several other brands involved in sponsorship including Modelo and Ballast Point on the beer side, and multiple wine and spirits brands. This conglomerate has done a great job at setting specific and attainable markets and goals for each brand, and that approach is reflected in the sponsorship and activation deals it signs – and some of these deals even overlap. 



As one of Constellation’s most popular brands, Corona is also one of its most visible. With a popular activation – the Corona Beach House – ready to go, the brand has been making inroads into the music scene. Through Constellation’s partnership with Live Nation, Corona is the sponsor of six EDM festivals as the official beer. It also has a presence at one of the country’s best known – and most hyped – music festival: Bonnaroo 

These festival sponsorships have several aims from the ability to align experience like Corona’s “passport to enjoyment” messaging to the less idealistic increased sales.  

Corona also has an on-off relationship going with Puerto Rican rapper/singer Juan Luis Morera Luna (aka Wisin). The two first teamed up in 2011 for “El Regreso de los Vaqueros,” and did so again for a smaller tour earlier this year. This year’s tour launched on Halloween and featured the “Corona Estéreo Beach” with Wisin as headliner and brand ambassador. The tour visited five cities on the eastern half of the United States. 

Also on the event side, though this time in sport, Corona Extra (as well as several other brands, as the category split) replaced Stella Artois as the Official Import Beer of the Kentucky Derby earlier this year. Stella originally signed with Churchill Downs as the official beer of the Derby in 2012, but upon contract expiration, the racetrack split sponsorship into these four categories: import, hard cider, craft beer, and domestic beer. The other brands involved are Budweiser (Domestic Beer) and Angry Orchard (Hard Cider). It does not appear 2018 featured an official craft beer, though there were several other non-beer alcoholic categories filled. 

beer sponsorship

Source: MediaPost

Corona Extra was also involved in one of the largest one-off sporting events of 2017 as the official beer sponsor of the Mayweather/McGregor boxing match. This deal was worth a reported $10 million, and included many – and varied – benefits. The beer brand had pouring rights at the event, held at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena, as well as exposure in and around the ring (including in the center of the fight mat), on the Showtime broadcast, prefight VIP hospitality, and on-site brand ambassadors. It also released prefight limited-edition bottles featuring current and retired boxers – though this promotion is part of Corona’s larger boxing strategy. 



In mainstream sports, Corona has a few deals in football. Each touches a different part of the industry, signifying Corona’s search for the right fit. On the broadcast side, the brand has aligned with new CBS color commentator Tony Romo. Post-retirement, Romo is digging in deep with brands, also working with Sketchers, Google Home, and Ralph Lauren. 

On the field, Corona signed a deal with the LA Rams while in their temporary home (the NFL isn’t allowing deals beyond that timeframe for the team). Corona was the team’s first partner following the move to LA and the deal covered the entire term the team is expected to play at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (through 2019). Restrictions are in place due to the stadium’s management by the University of Southern California (which is why you’ll see MillerCoors branding should you visit the stadium). We expect Corona to continue their partnership with the Rams following the team’s move to its permanent facility should both sides be able to agree on a fee. 

In college sports, Corona has stayed in the Southwest to partner with one of college football’s most storied programs: the University of Texas. The brand will serve a five year deal (which began in 2017) as the official import beer for the Longhorns. This partnership has a personalized tagline - “Horns Up, Limes In” - activated through on-site messaging. Using its national campaign, Corona will also operate its “Corona Beach House” at tailgate areas. 



Pacific is making its name outside of mainstream sport and music sponsorship. While the brand is making a play in both industries, that play is outside the Big 4 leagues and major festivals. However, that does not mean Pacifico doesn’t have a valuable place in the industry. Specifically aligning with Pacifico is the action sports segment. The cerveza has aligned with three major action and/or extreme sport properties, including the X Games, the US Open Snowboarding Championships, and the World Championship Tour of surfing. 

Pacifico has had a chance to make a splash at the past two X Games (2017 and 2018), both held in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The brand was named the Official Beer Sponsor in 2017, and returned the following year. Both packages included on-site and on-air activation, marketing rights, and social media integration. Meanwhile, Pacifico has partnered with the Burton US Snowboarding Championships for the past five years. Interestingly, this partnership is one that specifically mentions the alignment between the event and the brand as part of its digital assets:

Since surfers first imported it from Baja in the early 1970s, Pacifico has been the beer for those who seek the new, and embrace the journey. It’s more than a beer; it’s a mindset built on the belief that where the map ends, discovery begins. 

Pacifico also partners with the World Championship Tour (WCT) with its original marketing: surfers. While Bud Light Lime originally held title sponsorship over the series, fans are excited to see what the new brand partner is able to do with activation. Since alcohol consumption is banned on many beaches in the host cities, Pacifico likely concentrates on fan engagement activations in the nearby areas. 

Up in the northeast corner of the country is a festival that can count Pacifico as a sponsor: Frendly Gathering Music Festival. In spite of a lack of national recognition, like that enjoyed by Coachella or Lollapalooza, this Vermont-based festival has an impressive array of brand sponsors including Lululemon, Burton, Ben & Jerry’s in addition to Pacifico. 

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