Coors Light Runs Fantasy Football Advertising Blitz

Beer Brand Teams Up With Online Sports Platforms to Better Target Its NFL Audience

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Coors Light is betting big on fantasy football.

MillerCoors' flagship brand, which is the official beer sponsor of the National Football League, is rolling out a raft of new deals in and around fantasy-sports sites for the coming season. Coors Light had previously had a presence in the sport via NFL.com, but this year it has added a series of new platforms, including deals with WaterCooler, Yardbarker and the Fantasy Sports Ventures network.

If you're older than 21, the FanSection on Facebook carries ads from Coors Light.
If you're older than 21, the FanSection on Facebook carries ads from Coors Light.
The reasons for the marketer's enthusiasm for the category are twofold: It is convinced that the brand's core drinkers play the game in droves, and that the amount of user data those sites collect gives the brewer a far-greater degree of certainty that it's ads are being seen by legal-age drinkers, meaning it won't have to deal with the sort of backlash that has hounded past online ventures by brewers, such as Anheuser-Busch's Bud.TV.

How safe? Consider that WaterCooler's FanSection -- a fantasy-football platform that's integrated into Facebook -- is able to use the social network's user data to determine if players are 21 or older. If they are, they get a version of the game that's literally coated in Coors, even down to the branded trash-talking modules that accompany game results that are displayed in players' Facebook news feeds (and, as such, are viewable by all of their friends).

But if a player is younger than 21, they get a Coors-free version of the game. "When you look at Facebook or any of these sites where people are registered, you can be very sure you're dealing with people who are of legal drinking age," said Rachel Lanham, VP-client partner at Razorfish, Coors Light's digital agency. "It's part of the allure to us."

Of course, being able to avoid underage drinkers isn't of much use if you can't hit the legal-age drinkers you covet, and Coors is certain fantasy football is where they are found online. "We really look at his online experience, and it's all about fantasy," said Coors Light Brand Director Mark Weslar.

It's hard to argue with that conclusion when confronted with stats showing that the average fantasy-football player spends more than four hours per week managing his or her team during the season. But with only a portion of that time spent at the actual league sites, Coors has also tried to target prominent blogs and other sources of information for fantasy players, such as the popular Yardbarker sports-blogging hub.

Mr. Weslar described the various new fantasy initiatives as adding value to the marketer's core NFL deal, where it has a presence throughout the site, and not only on fantasy content. Because the NFL fiercely protects online video rights, its site is the only place where league video can be legally viewed online, and Coors Light ads often run while viewers are waiting for their clips to load.

Anheuser-Busch, on the other hand, is largely eschewing the fantasy football category in favor of local deals with 28 of the 32 NFL franchises, and a heavy TV investment in its new "Tailgate Approved" football platform for Bud Light.

A-B also this year shifted the majority of its NFL spending behind Bud Light, whereas in the past it split its league activities behind Bud Light and Budweiser. It's new approach is to focus one brand on one league, and Budweiser will get the majority of the brewer's Major League Baseball spending as a result.

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