By Barry Janoff
October 23, 2016: It is no secret that such companies as Anheuser-Busch, SABMiller, Molson Coors and Heineken have invested heavily in sports alliances and sponsorships.
A new study shows that consumers and fans are giving these companies a big bang for their investment bucks.
When people self-described as "regular drinkers" (those who consume alcohol at least several times a year) were asked what type of adult beverage first comes to mind when thinking of 11 different sports, beer was the No. 1 choice in nine: football (75%), baseball (70%), auto racing (55%), hockey (51%), basketball (48%), boxing (39%), soccer (34%), beach volleyball (25%) and golf (17%).
Meanwhile, regular drinkers associate horse racing first with spirits/liquor (25%) and wine with tennis (19%), according to a new survey from The Harris Poll.
Although specific brands were not included in this survey, Anheuser-Busch InBev — which this month completed its $100 billion-plus takeover of SABMiller — has ingratiated itself with pro sports fans via official deals that include the NFL, MLB, NBA, WNBA, Madison Square Garden in New York, L.A.’s Staples Center and the Daytona 500.
Concurrently, Coors Light is the official beer partner for the NHL (including title sponsor for the outdoor Stadium Series) and Nascar, as well as the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of horse racing’s triple crown; and Heineken has alliances with MLS and the U.S. Tennis Open, among others.
Last November, Anheuser-Busch signed a $1.4 billion multi-year renewal and global expansion of Bud Light's official beer sponsorship of the NFL.
The move extended Anheuser-Busch's alliance with the NFL, which was due to end after Super Bowl LI in 2017 for six years. Bud Light also is officially aligned with 28 of NFL's 32 teams.
Including Super Bowl LI this coming February, Anheuser-Busch will lay claim as the exclusive broadcast partner in the beer category for the 29th consecutive year.
Anheuser-Busch also has deals with 28 of the NFL’s 32 teams.
One month after the NFL deal, Anheuser-Busch signed a four-year extension of its marketing partnership with the NBA.
Under terms of the deal — estimated at $20 million annually by industry analysts — Anheuser-Busch remained the "official beer partner" for the NBA, WNBA and NBA Development League and expanded its marketing partnership to include USA Basketball and the NBA’s Hispanic marketing initiative, Noches éne-bé-a.
Anheuser-Busch also has deals with 22 NBA teams.
"Anheuser-Busch is one of the most innovative brands in sports and entertainment marketing and the No. 1 brewer in the world," Ron Skotarczak, evp-marketing partnerships for The Madison Square Garden Co., said in a statement last week after the brewer extended and expanded its alliance with the venue that is home to the NBA’s New York Knicks and NHL’s Rangers.
“We are thrilled that they, having experienced the value we deliver, have decided to expand their sponsorship with activations that include the distinctive 'One Night Only' concert series, as well as the Bud Light Lounge, which will become a premier hospitality space in The World's Most Famous Arena," said Skotarczak.
Adding to the national visibility of beer among consumers, Busch Stadium, Coors Field and Miller Park have naming rights deals with brewing companies.
However, the findings in The Harris Poll were not limited to beer.
Among those people of drinking age who consume alcohol at least several times a year — including beer, wine and spirits/liquor — the sports most associated with adult beverages are football (84%), baseball (78%), hockey (62%), auto racing (66%), horse racing (62%), basketball (60%), boxing (56%), golf (50%), soccer (48%), beach volleyball (46%) and tennis (42%).
Whether seeing a game in-person or on TV, almost two-thirds of regular drinkers describe themselves as football fans (63%), followed baseball (43%) basketball (37%), hockey (22%), car racing/motor sports (20%), boxing (19%), golf (18%) and soccer (18%).
"There is no denying the concurrence of watching sports and enjoying an adult beverage," Danny Brager, svp-Nielsen's Beverage and Alcohol Practice (Harris is a division of Nielsen), said in a statement. "Given the surrounding business environment connected with professional sports, there is intense competition among those beverages to become that fan's beverage of choice — whether that occasion be at a sporting event or watching that sport at home or elsewhere.
"Suppliers would be wise to know which sport(s) offers the best opportunities for their products, and which sports might require greater emphasis in order to elevate their products into the fan's consideration set when they choose an alcoholic beverage," said Brager.
The Harris Poll was conducted online among 1,986 U.S. adults aged 21+ (1,394 of whom said they drink alcohol at least several times a year) between Aug. 26-30, 2016.
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