Miller Brewing Co. is close to a major pact with Fox Broadcasting under which the beer marketer will spend $250 million to $300 million on the network's prime-time and sports programming over the next four years.
By committing upwards of $75 million a year to the network, Miller will more than triple its annual spending on Fox, which this year totaled some $20 million.
Leo Burnett Media, Chicago, engineered the deal, which seems to be a win-win one for the partners. It gives Fox a monetary boost
from a major ad category, while hooking Miller up with a network strong in the demographic segment the brewer most covets.
"Part of the appeal of the deal, from Miller's point of view, is the close association it can make with Fox," said an executive familiar with the pending pact. "The beers are off MTV, and the [National Basketball Association] doesn't allow its players to endorse beer. So how do you hit that young male audience in a meaningful way? Fox."
Less happy is Miller rival Anheuser-Busch. An executive close to A-B was surprised to learn of the pending deal.
"It wasn't offered to us first," the executive said.
It's not clear whether Miller will boost its overall network TV spending or just turn the lion's share of its budget over to Fox. The marketer spent a combined $125 million last year on the Big 4 networks, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
The Fox deal gives Miller beer-category exclusivity on Major League Baseball games broadcast on Fox, including playoff and World Series games.
The 2-minute warning for National Football League games on Fox will be branded as "Miller Time," as will a prime-time vignette that will air Friday nights on the network between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. (ET).
The vignettes and 2-minute warning will most likely support the Miller Lite brand, which is using the revived "Miller Time" slogan in ads from Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis. The vignettes will promote Fox's weekend sports schedule.
Another element of the deal will allow Miller to use Fox Sports logos in various point-of-purchase materials.
Fox, Burnett and Fallon referred calls to Miller; a spokeswoman for the brewer said the company doesn't comment on "speculation."
While the deal will run through 2000, the NFL portion is contingent on Fox extending its contract with the league beyond 1998.
Contributing: James B. Arndorfer.
Copyright June 1997, Crain Communications Inc.