Dos Equis Nears Deal to Sponsor College Football Playoff

Heineken USA Brand in Final Stages of Inking 5-Year Deal

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Dos Equis: Masquerade – Little Black Book14
Dos Equis: Masquerade – Little Black Book14

The Most Interesting Man in the World could soon be picking up the pigskin if Dos Equis finalizes an agreement to sponsor the College Football Playoff.

A spokesman for brand owner Heineken USA confirmed to Ad Age that the Mexican import is entering into a letter of intent with ESPN to make Dos Equis the official beer sponsor of the playoff. The deal, if finalized, would be for up to five years and cover the College Football Playoff National Championship, semifinals and the so-called "New Years Six" bowl games, including the Rose, Peach, Sugar, Fiesta, Cotton and Orange bowls, according to the spokesman. It is expected that the deal would begin in the 2016-2017 season.

Negotiations between Heineken and ESPN were first reported last week by Sports Business Journal, which cited several unnamed sources.

The publication reported that while deal terms are not known, official sponsorships of the playoff are in the $14 million to $16 million range per year. An ESPN spokeswoman declined comment.

ESPN's deals with the sponsors include multimedia ad buys, such as TV ads. When the College Football Playoff began last season, ESPN originally signed up 15 official playoff sponsors, including Reese's, Dr Pepper, AT&T, Allstate and Northwestern Mutual. Dos Equis would be the first beer sponsor of the playoff.

The deal is significant because Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors have traditionally dominated sports sponsorships of the four major U.S. sports. Heineken has been a sponsorship player, but mostly in soccer. Earlier this year, Heineken USA signed a deal making Heineken the official beer of Major League Soccer, for instance.

Dos Equis, while growing, is much smaller than brand Heineken. The Mexican brew had 0.8% market share in the beer category for 2014, compared with 1.8% for Heineken, according to Beer Marketer's Insights. By contrast, Bud Light -- which is the nation's largest beer and an official NFL sponsor -- had 17.5% share in 2014.

The deal could signal a new direction for Dos Equis. Under the highly successful Most Interesting Man in the World campaign, ads have have been worldly, quirky and a little mysterious -- not traits normally associated with all-American college football. The Man, it seems, would be more comfortable running with the bulls than running the gridiron. But if he is used in the college football campaign, he would almost assuredly put a unique spin on the sport.

When Dos Equis has gotten involved with sports in the past, it has done so mostly as an outsider. In 2014, for instance, the brand ran an ad during the Winter Olympics opening ceremonies called "Bobsled." The ad showed scenes of Olympic sports like hockey and skiing, but the word "Olympics" was not used because Dos Equis was not a sponsor.

Dos Equis was an official sponsor of the Tough Mudder obstacle course event but was replaced by A-B InBev's Shock Top in 2015.

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