A-B InBev Takes Over SXSW Sponsorship From MillerCoors

Brewer Will Put Bud Light Out Front in Austin Starting This March

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Credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
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Miller Time is over at South by Southwest. Rival brewing company Anheuser-Busch InBev will take over as sponsor of the Austin-based music, film and interactive festival, which has emerged as a major showcase for brands.

A-B InBev in a statement said its new deal gives it "super sponsorship" status, which it describes as "the highest level of sponsorship available." The pact will put Bud Light "at the forefront of the most anticipated annual event where original music, independent film and emerging technologies converge," according to the statement.

The two-year deal begins in 2016, when SXSW will begin March 11. A spokeswoman declined to describe financial terms.

MillerCoors-owned Miller Lite had been the festival's sponsor for 15 years, according to the brewer. A MillerCoors spokesman said the company declined to renew its deal but declined to elaborate.

Other "super sponsors" in 2016 include Esurance, Mazda, Monster Energy, and Capital One, according to the SXSW web site.

While Bud Light will lead A-B InBev's sponsorship, the brewer said it will also develop programs for its other brands, including Budweiser and Stella Artois.

"We're planning new and disruptive experiences in Austin to engage SXSW attendees around the passions we share -- be that music, film or digital experiences," Eelco van der Noll, the brewer's VP for experiential marketing, said in the company statement. "While more details for planned activations will be unveiled closer to this spring's conference and festival dates, you can expect Anheuser-Busch to amplify the partnership, while sharing the innovation, excitement and creativity of SXSW with industry and press, plus hundreds of thousands of consumers that reaches around the globe."

"SXSW looks forward to an excellent 30th year with our new partner as they work to bring new and engaging integrations to life," Roland Swenson, a SXSW founder and managing director, said in the statement.

The move furthers A-B InBev's intensifying focus on music sponsorships. The brewer recently surpassed Coca-Cola Co. as the most active music sponsor, according to sponsorship consultancy IEG. Still, most of the brewer's sponsorship money remains with sports. Of the estimated $300 million to $305 million the brewer spent on sponsorships in 2014, 86% went to sports, with 5% on festivals and 8% on entertainment, according to IEG.