In April 2017, Michelob ULTRA announced a partnership with a 26-year-old golfer. At the time, he’d missed four of his last six cuts in stroke play events and had just one PGA Tour victory, coming in 2015.
Since then, Brooks Koepka’s career has popped off. Michelob’s gambit paid off.
Over the last 25 months, Koepka has won three major championships – the 2017 U.S. Open, 2018 U.S. Open and 2018 PGA Championship. He also won the CJ Cup last October. He’s held the World No. 1 ranking four times for a total of nine weeks. In 2018, he was the PGA Tour Player of the Year.
Before Koepka attempts to defend his PGA Championship and U.S. Open titles in the next two months, Michelob ULTRA rolled out the red carpet – well, actually a barge in the Hudson River – for Koepka. On Monday, the now-29-year-old was given a chance to win free beer for New Yorkers. He would take three shots off of the Governors Island Outlook Hill in Lower Manhattan, needing one ball to land on a moving green roughly 120 yards away.
Koepka dunked his second shot onto the barge.
The activation is part of an extension of the partnership between the brand and Koepka.
— Front Office Sports (@frntofficesport) May 6, 2019
“I think this is probably one of the more difficult shots I’ve hit,” he chuckled. “It’s windy, it’s cold. You’re up at elevation. It was a great shot. I’m glad I did it. I’m glad I got everybody beer.”
Getting everybody beer is a loose way to put it. On May 16, the first day of the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black on Long Island, consumers in NYC will be able to get a $5 rebate on Michelob ULTRA 6-packs, as well as a free Michelob ULTRA at select bars in the city from 3-6 p.m.
From a business perspective, Anheuser-Busch deserves more credit than striking gold by dumb luck (necessary disclosure: AB InBev is a partner of Front Office Sports). There was a reason for signing Koepka in the first place. In a sport with a lengthy tradition of staging an equal playing field for individuals of all shapes and sizes, Michelob ULTRA needed a spokesman who fit the low-calorie, low-carb beer. Koepka, a chiseled 20-something-year-old who values his fitness, was a prime choice.
“We were looking for somebody who really embodies the spirit of our brand, someone who cares about their health and wellness and being fit and being active as a big part of who they are,” recalls Azania Andrews, Vice President of Marketing for Michelob ULTRA at Anheuser-Busch.
Koepka grew up in South Florida and went to Florida State, a state that Andrews describes as an important territory for ULTRA. Now, as travels the world playing golf, he frequently Instagrams from the gym with friend and fellow golfer Dustin Johnson.
“The brand they have, staying fit, it’s exactly what I try to embody as an athlete and as a golfer,” Koepka says. “I think it’s a perfect relationship. The way that they carry themselves, the attitude that they have towards lifestyle, it’s something you can enjoy yourself, but still be fit. That’s exactly what I try to do.”
Sponsors don’t have the same scouting departments as front offices in team sports. Michelob ULTRA’s timing with Koepka is as textbook a brand success story as you can find. The company brings in a young, unproven athlete who goes on to become one of the top stars in his sport. Were it not for Tiger Woods’ legendary comeback at this year’s Masters, Koepka might have had four majors by this point.
“He was somebody with a lot of skill, a lot of potential, but was maybe not recognized as the sort of leader that he’s become,” Andrews says. “What’s been interesting is as he’s risen, our brand has risen in terms of business and prominence and wealth, as well. So we feel he’s a perfect match for us.”
Michelob ULTRA wanted health and wellness. They got that — and three majors and counting.
“When you have somebody who is as good as he is and playing as well as he plays, partnered with you, it helps us drive awareness, and it helps us remain relevant in the sport,” Andrews says. “It attracts a new group of drinkers. We hope to work with him for a long time and find all sorts of interesting things to do.”
On May 16, that crowd will be New Yorkers who are unable to make the commute out to Bethpage but neverteheless are captivated by Koepka’s skills.
Meanwhile, Koepka hopes to celebrate a major with Michelob ULTRA for the fourth time that Sunday.