The multiyear agreement marks the first time a spirits company has sponsored a National Football League team, and it's believed to be the first time a spirits marketer has sponsored any pro sports team. The agreement includes signage for Smirnoff Ice and Captain Morgan Gold inside FedEx Field, and leaves the door open for other brands. The ads, likely to be seen on TV coverage of Redskins games, come amid a contentious debate over liquor ads on network TV.
Getting on TV
Diageo, the world's largest
As it continues to push the bounds of standard practice, Diageo is said to be negotiating with other stadiums and teams to be on equal footing with brewers. Anheuser-Busch Cos. and SABMiller's Miller Brewing Co. are present in all 32 NFL stadiums, through in-stadium signs and/or pouring rights. Coors Brewing Co. in June had wrested official NFL sponsorship from Anheuser-Busch with a five-year, $300 million deal.
It's uncertain whether the pre-game TV shows will carry spots for Diageo brands, according to one executive familiar with the deal. At least 25% of the stadium signage will advocate responsible drinking, though that is unlikely to assuage critics.
Most valuable pro team
Diageo declined to comment. Calls for comment to the Redskins and the NFL were not returned. According to Forbes, the Redskins are the most valuable franchise in all of professional sports at $796 million.
Spirits companies have begun infiltrating stadiums. According to Kurt Hunzeker, editor of Team Marketing Report, Bacardi & Co. has ads at Pro Player Stadium in Miami and Brown-Forman Corp.'s Jack Daniels is in Denver and Oakland.
"It's a great move," Mr. Hunzeker said. "They're getting their hard-liquor brand out without having to go by the rules of hard-liquor advertising."