Beats Miller and Anheuser-Busch for $300 Million Prize

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CHICAGO ( -- Coors Brewing Co. has outbid Miller Brewing Co. and Anheuser-Busch to become the official beer of the National Football League through 2007. The company announced the deal today to its distributors at its annual convention in Las Vegas, according to an attendee and several other people.

An executive close to the negotiations told the deal was official and was worth nearly $300 million for the five years, beginning with the 2002 season.

The agreement gives Coors exclusive rights to league trademarks such as the NFL shield, the Super Bowl, the Pro Bowl and other calendar opportunities such as the NFL draft. Coors also receives collective club trademark rights, meaning they cannot do a promotion with a single team logo but can use all 32 team logos at the same time.

'Huge coup'
"This is a huge coup for Coors," said Brandon Steiner of

Steiner Sports Marketing, New Rochelle, N.Y.

Miller, an NFL sponsor for 18 years, and Anheuser-Busch, a sponsor for 12, will still be able to advertise on NFL telecasts; league officials said they expect the brewers to continue buying ad time. Miller and Anheuser-Busch will also be able to be a sponsor on the team level. Under the new agreement, individual teams will not only receive compensation from the Coors deal, but the franchises will also be able to cut their own deals with any brewer they chose.

The announcement of the deal capped off this morning's marketing presentation for the nation's third-largest brewer after executives presented new advertising and marketing plans for key brands including Coors Original and Coors Light and malternative brews Zima and Vibe.

Anheuser-Busch and Miller, a unit of Philip Morris Cos., currently share beer sponsorship during the NFL's regular season. Miller was the official beer sponsor of the postseason and Super Bowl.

Changed relationship
"We are no longer the official beer sponsors of the NFL like we have been," said Marc Spiegel, sports marketing public relations manager for Miller, the country's No. 2 brewer. "We've had a great beneficial relationship with the NFL, but the nature of continuing our relationship has changed with this new way of dealing with team marks. In the past, our sponsorship included the rights to use the marks of each team individually. Our understanding is those rights are going back to the individual teams."

He said Miller will continue its involvement with professional football through individual team relationships, advertising and retail programs.

1999 legal battle
In 1999, NFL Properties had obtained a preliminary injunction against Coors to prevent the brewer from using the phrase "Official Beer of the NFL Players," which would have been tied to Coors' sponsorship of the NFL Players Association.

As a result, Coors restated its sponsorship as "Official Beer of Players Inc."

Representatives from the NFL and Anheuser-Busch were not immediately available to comment. Coors declined to comment.

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