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A-B InBev Extends NBA Sponsorship, Gains Content Rights

Advertising Age, December 01, 2015

By E.J. Schultz

Anheuser-Busch InBev will keep its stranglehold on major American sports league sponsorships after extending its NBA deal for another four years.

The renewal, which was announced today, includes a content play that will result in the production of digital videos hosted on NBA-owned properties and shared on A-B InBev properties. The content will bring the brewer's "brand messages to life through basketball," according to a statement. Also, for the first time, A-B InBev will use two brands — Bud Light and Budweiser — in NBA activations during the same year. Previously, the brewer used just one brand per season; last season it was Bud Light.

A-B InBev also gained "enhanced packaging and marketing rights," that will allow it to feature NBA and team logos on a national basis on cans, bottles and other packaging and campaigns. The brewer can only use team logos for the 22 teams for which it has individual sponsorship deals. Team-specific packaging has emerged as a key plank of the brewer's NFL sponsorship, which was recently extended through the 2021-2022 season. Finally, the brewer gained sponsorship of USA Basketball through the new deal, potentially opening the door to activations around the summer Olympics, which will be held next year in Brazil.

"We've expanded this longstanding partnership in key areas that matter to our consumers, like content, packaging and our new affiliation with USA Basketball," Lucas Herscovici, A-B InBev's U.S. VP of consumer connections, said in a statement.

A-B InBev declined to release financial terms of the deal. Jim Andrews, senior VP-content strategy at sponsorship consultancy IEG, estimated that the deal was probably worth more than $20 million annually according to the going market rate, potentially including advertising commitments and other considerations.

The brewer has been an NBA sponsor since 1998. "Our relationship with Anheuser-Busch is one of our longest standing partnerships, and we're thrilled to be expanding our activation in new ways that span the basketball calendar," Emilio Collins, NBA exec VP-global marketing partnerships, said in a statement.

A-B InBev has an existing pact with Major League Baseball, meaning the only major pro sports league the brewer does not control is the National Hockey League, which inked a seven year deal with Molson Coors in 2011.

The content portion of the NBA deal continues the trend of sponsors looking for media assets as part of sports sponsorship deals. For instance, Verizon last month announced a new NBA sponsorship that includes access to some live games and highlights for the marketer's mobile-first internet TV service, Go90.

"Everyone is a digital publisher and wants content to publish, and I think it's a smart move on A-B's part to secure rights to footage like they did with the NFL deal," Mr. Andrews said.

An A-B InBev spokesman declined to provide specifics on the content deal, other than to say that "we are working closely with the NBA." He added that the goal is to launch the series around the time of the All-Star game, which will be held in mid-February.