Coors Light, ‘official beer of Saturday morning,' strikes deal with ESPN's 'Gameday’
Coors Light has inked a deal as the first-ever beer sponsor for ESPN’s “College Gameday” college football pregame show. The deal, which includes in-show branding, comes as beer brands continue to break through barriers related to marketing in and around college campuses, including selling beer in stadiums.
Coors Light’s "Gameday" deal did not require any regulation changes at the brewer or cable network. Rather, ESPN simply had a sponsorship opportunity come open previously held by General Motors that Coors Light filled, says Patricia Betron, senior VP, consumer packaged goods and beverages for Disney Advertising Sales. She says demand for the limited number of in-show sponsorships is strong. “When we had the availability they jumped on it,” she says.
Beer brands ads have long run ads during college games and sponsorships have grown in number. Dos Equis since 2015 has been designated as the official beer of the College Football Playoff under a multi-year deal brokered with ESPN.
Coors Light’s "Gameday" deal brings more intimacy with universities that most: The show has aired live from college campuses since 1993. But the deal comes as more schools loosen their beer policies. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, a growing number of colleges are striking deals for in-stadium beer sales and sponsorships, in part to combat declining ticket sales.
“We really have followed where college football overall has been going,” Betron told Ad Age. “As they have become more open to beer within the content, within the games, we have followed suit with that.”
The Southeastern Conference, which operates in the heart of the football-crazed South, earlier this year lifted its ban on beer and wine sales in the public seating areas of athletic venues. The decision to sell beer is now made at the university level within the SEC. In other parts of the country, beer brands have gone as far as making co-branded beers with schools. For instance, earlier this month, craft brewer Avery Brewing announced a new brew called Stampede, made in partnership with the University of Colorado. Cans include an image of the school’s mascot, “Ralphie,” an American Bison.
Coors Light has more than 30 sponsorship deals with universities, including Ohio State University, University of Texas and University of Alabama.
Ryan Reis, VP of marketing for the Coors family of brands, says the deal builds on MillerCoors’ existing endorsement deal with Kirk Herbstreit, one of the "Gameday" hosts, who has previously appeared in social media advertising for Coors Light.
“This was about taking it to the next level and connecting to 'Gameday' as a broad reach vehicle since so many people watch it to kick off their game viewing experiences,” Reis says.
Under the deal, the game prognostication segment of the show will now be known as “Coors Light Saturday Selections.” Coors Light also plans to run commercials during the program from its new “Made to Chill” campaign from Leo Burnett. One of the spots plugs Coors Light as “the official beer of Saturday morning.” It shows two guys cracking open beers for breakfast as they settle in front of a TV with a game on.
Seperate from the ESPN deal, Coors Light plans to deploy a branded Airstream trailer on college campuses where "Gameday" is broadcasting. The vehicle, called the “Cold Stream,” has taps pouring “below freezing” Coors Light.
In an attempt to address social responsibility concerns, the brewer runs training programs in collaboration with universities that sell alcohol in stadiums. Tools include legal age calendars, designated driver kiosks and in-stadium responsibility signage and messaging. “We go to campuses and help guide these colleges on the best practices when it comes to responsibly serving alcohol,” Reis says.
Other "Gameday" sponsors include AT&T, Coca-Cola, GEICO, Goodyear, Hershey's and Pizza Hut, which all sponsored the show last year.