Diageo—which broke the National Football League’s liquor ad barrier in 2017—has cleared another regulation hurdle by becoming the league’s first-ever spirits sponsor. The multiyear deal gives the liquor giant rights to use NFL trademarks in national TV ads, digital marketing and activations at games.
Diageo will make Crown Royal the lead brand in the deal but is also expected to use it to plug its other brands, including Smirnoff Vodka and Captain Morgan.
Diageo declined to release financial terms of the sponsorship, but the pact puts the liquor marketer on par with other NFL sponsors including Anhesuer-Busch InBev and PepsiCo, which shell out millions of dollars annually to get their brands in front of the league’s massive audience. There is one key difference, however: AB InBev controls exclusive TV ad rights for the Super Bowl, so unless that changes Diageo will be sidelined for the Big Game.
Still, the deal marks another watershed moment for the liquor industry, which has for years fought to overcome its second-class status when compared with beer, which has historically faced fewer sports advertising regulations. A big break came in 2017, when the NFL lifted its ban on in-game liquor ads. At the time, the league kept its ban on league-wide liquor sponsorships. That was lifted in 2019, but the NFL has not signed a liquor sponsor until now.