Anheuser-Busch InBev, which has historically been one of the largest sports marketers in the U.S., has selected WME's IMG as its new sports experiential marketing agency of record. The brewer had previously handled U.S. duties in-house, while using Octagon for global work. Octagon will remain on the brewer's roster, according to a spokesman.
"WME|IMG is the right partner to help us optimize our entire sports portfolio, develop new, innovative and disruptive activation programs, and write a new chapter in the way Anheuser-Busch activates its sports and entertainment properties," Lucas Herscovici, the brewer's VP of consumer connections, said in a statement.
WME, also known as William Morris Endeavor, acquired IMG in 2014.
A-B InBev holds official sponsorship rights for the National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association and the The Ultimate Fighting Championship, commonly known as UFC. But the brewer is expected to take a closer look at how it executes its sports marketing. For instance, one goal is to put more of an emphasis on experiential marketing, rather than simply using sports to raise awareness for brands such as Bud Light, which are already universally recognizable.
That would follow the strategy already underway for the brewer's general marketing, which has sought to unite digital and experiential marketing with events such as A-B's "Whatever USA," town takeover event.
The decision to outsource U.S. sports duties to an agency follows last year's move to shift media-buying to WPP's MediaCom. The work had previously been handled in house by Busch Media Group. BMG had historically had a huge influence on the sports marketing landscape because it controlled the purse-strings for sports media buying.
On an earnings call last year, A-B InBev CEO Carlos Brito said that while BMG was "very, very good at buying sports and traditional media on TV," he suggested that it was "not as well equipped" for buying new media.