Category exclusivity is taking on less importance in the alcoholic beverage category, according to comments from sponsorship decision-makers with the two largest U.S. beer companies at IEG 2018.

Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors are both moving away from exclusive deals and the price tag that comes with it, focusing instead on creating compelling go-to-market strategies that create a point of differentiation.

“In the uber-competitive beer business, we always feel like we can out-activate our competitors at retail. That doesn’t always reflect into having exclusivity in the beer category,” said Marques Jackson, MillerCoors senior manager of brand experience.

The ability to out-activate competitors requires the ability to be nimble and the right asset mix, he said, pointing to social and digital media and unique hospitality experiences as examples.

“If we have the right set of assets, then we feel like we’re going to drive value and ultimately deliver against our objectives.”

Nick Kelly, A-B InBev head of U.S. sports marketing, pointed to research that showed a minimal difference in the value of exclusive deals versus non-exclusive deals.

“Exclusive deals are only a penny more valuable than a shared deal. The one thing we saw with shared deals is that a team can be a lot more valuable on a good year versus a bad year than an exclusive team. The problem is, as incremental as the value becomes at the exclusive level, the ROI is not there.”

Like MillerCoors, Kelly points to A-B’s ability to out-activate its competitors as the key to success.

“MillerCoors believes in shared deals, as do we. It is becoming an arms race on who activates better. Who creates the better content, who has the better resources, and who can take their brand to the marketplace best. That’s our position moving forward.”

While A-B is partial to non-exclusive deals, it has not completely moved away from exclusive partnerships. The company will evaluate exclusive deals on a case-by-case basis.

“Some teams want shared deals, and if we don’t pay for it, someone else will. We recognize that. Not every team is equal. We go in with the mentality of where we need to be first, and if we have to settle, we’ll settle.”

Category exclusivity is the most valuable benefit a property can offer a sponsor, according to the 2017 ESP Properties Sponsorship Decision-Makers Survey. Fifty-five percent of sponsors ranked exclusivity at 9 or a 10 on a 10-point scale, where ten is extremely important.