Beer companies place more focus on nonexclusive deals, unique experiences and proprietary events.
Industry consolidation, changing consumer preferences and the continued popularity of craft beer have resulted in a seismic shift in how beer companies use sponsorship.
Below, IEG SR highlights three sponsorship trends in the beer category.
Goodbye category exclusivity
With consumers increasingly expecting a mix of beverage options at sports and entertainment events, a growing number of rightsholders are forgoing exclusive deals in favor of partnerships with multiple brands.
The San Francisco Giants work with a mix of mass-market beer companies, local breweries (Anchor Steam, Lagunitas, etc.) and other segments of the beer category.
“Fans want variety and choice. We have three-and-a-half million people come to AT&T Park every year, and we want to make sure we have the right offerings for everyone,” said Brenden Mallette, San Francisco Giants’ director of sponsorship sales.
The length of the MLB season also plays into the team’s decision to move away from exclusive deals, said Mallette, noting that it would be difficult for a sponsor to fully activate a partnership across 81 regular season home games.
“It would be hard to do all the things that are important to us as an organization. That led us down the road of multiple brands in the stadium.”
While most beer companies are comfortable with nonexclusive deals, there is one notable exception: Anheuser-Busch InBev. The beverage giant wants to be the only beer in town when it comes to sports and entertainment events.
“Properties can insist on a shared deal, but if they do, we’re out. And all of a sudden their $2 million rights fee becomes $300,000 or $400,000 based on what the other brands are paying. We’re after exclusive deals: we want to get married, we don’t want to have affairs, and we want rightsholders—teams in particular— to be realistic about the value of the deals,” Eelco van der Noll, Anheuser-Busch InBev vice president of experiential marketing, told attendees at IEG 2016.
Go big or go home
With craft breweries continuing to pop out of the woodwork, mass-market beer companies are increasingly using sponsorship to access unique, one-of-a-kind consumer experiences.
Anheuser-Busch InBev will leverage next month’s Stagecoach music festival with push notifications dangling access to special performances, fast-pass lanes and other perks centered on Budweiser’s on-site footprint.
“It’s all centralized around the experience that Budweiser wants to create onsite,” said Russell Silvers, AEG Global Partnerships senior vice president.
Anheuser-Busch sponsors Stagecoach as part of a long-term partnership with AEG that includes upwards of 30 properties across multiple continents.
More companies go it alone
Beer companies large and small are increasingly adding proprietary marketing platforms to their sponsorship portfolios.
The reason: the opportunity to promote a brand ethos in a 360-degree marketing environment.
The Pabst Brewing Co. is one company that has opted for proprietary events. The company in 2016 expanded the Project Pabst music festival in Portland, Oregon to three new markets: Atlanta, Denver and Philadelphia.
“When you sponsor another event, you’re beholden to other people. You can collaborate on an idea, but you don’t get to book bands and set concession prices. We sell PBR for $3—you won’t find another festival in the world with $3 beer,” said Matt Slessler, PBR national brand ambassador.