NFL Beers Highlight New Approach to Anheuser-Busch Sports Marketing

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The next generation of Anheuser-Busch sports marketing is descending upon the industry, including several NFL beers to kick off the season. 

While Bud Light isn’t going anywhere, the beverage behemoth is increasingly branching into new territory, particularly with its craft beer brands, highlighted by five collaborations between the company’s craft breweries and NFL teams. This also comes along with the company’s hard seltzer brand Bon & Viv’s NFL partnership

“For years, all they had to do was put Bud Light and Budweiser out in front,” said Josh Noel, beer and travel writer for the Chicago Tribune and wrote the book “Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out” about the sale of Goose Island to Anheuser-Busch. “Tastes have fragmented and as a result, we’re seeing Astros and Rams beers.” 

As craft beer rapidly grew in the beer industry in the past decade, Anheuser-Busch has acquired more than a dozen breweries across the globe, including Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Co., Los Angeles’s Golden Road Brewery, and New York’s Blue Point Brewery. 

Now, the company is using those breweries to make local connections with sports fans. 

With the NFL season kicking off, five Anheuser-Busch-owned craft breweries have partnered with local NFL teams, creating their own beers. 

Those NFL beers are as follows: Four Peaks Brewing x Arizona Cardinals Red Bird Lager; Devil’s Backbone Brewing x Washington Redskins #ATTR burgundy and golden ales; Elysian Brewing x Seattle Seahawks Noise Pale Ale; Breckenridge Brewery x Denver Broncos United in Orange; Golden Road Brewing x Los Angeles Rams Whose House?! Blonde Ale.

AB Craft x Team Collaborations
Blue Point Brewery x New York Yankees
Breckenridge Brewery x Denver Broncos
Devil’s Backbone x Washington Nationals
Devil’s Backbone x Washington Redskins
Devil’s Backbone x Washington Capitals
Elysian Brewing x Seattle Seahawks
Elysian Brewing x Seattle Sounders
Elysian Brewing x  Seattle Seawolves
Four Peaks Brewing x Arizona Cardinals
Golden Road Brewery x Los Angeles Dodgers
Golden Road Brewery x Los Angeles Rams
Karbach Brewing x Houston Astros

Sports is still a prime market for beer marketing, but consumer habits are shifting, necessitating a new strategy, said Jack Blake, senior brand manager of craft marketing at Anheuser-Busch. The past five years have seen a growing demand for flavors. 

“We wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we ignored the increase in consumption of the craft category,” Blake said. “Obviously, the likes of the bigger brands will never go away from sports, but the way craft sets itself apart is by bringing a more locally authentic, unique and creative experience to the sports industry.”

“We are a consumer industry, and if they want craft beer at one of the biggest beer-drinking platforms in the world, we would be naive to ignore it.”

By harnessing team fanbases and providing them a branded product, the beers can introduce the category to new customers and also build brand loyalty in an industry that’s been largely built on variety. 

“This is a great way to support that brand loyalty on both sides,” Blake said. “The brewery can reward those fans of theirs with tickets and new experiences. The team can utilize it to connect with consumers on a deeper level and continue their support for local business and culture.”

While Anheuser-Busch does have a vested interest in ensuring the beer industry continues to grow and introducing the craft category to the masses, Noel said the company likely also has an even stronger interest in putting craft beer Into the hands of a captive audience that is clamoring for it.

The connections with the local teams are made easier by marketing agreements already in place between the teams and Anheuser-Busch.

“They have access no one else has,” Noel said. “They’re a marketing company that also makes beer. It’s smart business, forging relationships others aren’t able to.”

While there are plenty of teams with existing Anheuser-Busch partnerships, Blake said the team partnerships have to be organic and authentic. The breweries acquired by the company have been large, regional breweries scattered fairly evenly across the U.S., so there’s likely more to come. Blake said the beers offer a door for teams and breweries to “explore more creative integration opportunities.”

“Consumers are smart, and just making a beer with the team and brewery logo isn’t necessarily an authentic representation, and they will see right through it,” Blake said. “When it does make sense and feels authentic across both the team and brewery is when you can expect it to be a successful partnership.” 

READ MORE: Spill the Wine: NFL Clubs Pushing Team-Branded Wine Collections

Part of the larger craft portfolio strategy has seen the breweries open taprooms in other markets, like 10 Barrel Brewery, Goose Island and Golden Road, so it’s also possible more taprooms open in or near sports venues. Blake declined to expand on any future plans. 

He did say the company’s craft portfolio is beginning to make moves in the international sports market as well, with English breweries Camden Town and Beavertown building out taprooms in Premier League stadiums.

“We are always exploring more options where it makes sense,” Blake said. “Craft will continue to be a focus and will continue to grow within the sports world, whether it’s in-stadium or in-market, or even in the locker room.”