Anheuser-Busch, which is paying an estimated $50 million a year to make Bud Light the new official beer of the NFL, kicks off its sponsorship today by pledging to spend millions more in a contest linked to this month's NFL Draft.
The "Best Round Ever" promotion will give a $10 million grand prize to a fan who can perfectly pick players selected in the first round of the draft's first round on April 28. (You've got to be 21 or older to play.) "The NFL Draft has become an unofficial holiday for fans -- something they begin looking forward to almost as soon as the previous season ends," said Mike Sundet, senior director, Bud Light. "It's also a highly social event, which makes it a perfect fit for Bud Light."
The Bud Light sponsorship, inked for six years, officially begins today, replacing MillerCoors' Coors Light, which had the sponsorship since the 2002 season. MillerCoors backed out because executives said they could no longer get a return on investment on the hefty price tag the league was seeking.
A-B begins its deal at an ominous time, with the league and players embroiled in a bitter labor dispute that in the worst case could lead to the season being canceled. Although a lockout is in effect, the draft will go on as planned. A-B is catching a bit of a break as high-profile players look to be ready to attend the event, rather than boycott it. For instance, ESPN reported Thursday that Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller, a likely high pick and the only rookie plaintiff named in a players antitrust lawsuit against the league, has accepted an invitation to attend the draft, to be held at Radio City Music Hall.
The labor dispute has not kept marketers of all stripes from aligning with the league. Just this week, Unilever's Vaseline Men said it was launching a "Keep Your Grip Challenge" linked heavily to the NFL and the draft, while Century 21 became the first marketer to publicly commit to a Super Bowl advertisement, which will likely cost more than $3 million for a 30-second spot.
The Bud Light sponsorship gives the brand the right to use NFL logos, including the highly recognizable shield, as well as the "collective use of all 32 team logos." The brand is seeking to drive consumers to its Facebook page with a sweepstakes in which fans can win a trip for two to the draft, while selling a commemorative NFL Draft-branded Bud Light aluminum bottle at bars.