How Bud Light will take advantage of the NFL’s newly loosened beer ad rules: Marketer’s Brief Podcast
When the National Football League finally decided to lift its ban on active players appearing in beer ads, some of the biggest cheers came from Anheuser-Busch InBev. The brewer shells out millions of dollars to make Bud Light the league's official beer, but its marketing had been hamstrung by the restriction.
“It’s monumental for us,” says Nick Kelly, who heads up the brewer’s U.S. sports marketing.
On the latest edition of Ad Age's Marketer's Brief podcast, Kelly explains how the brewer will take advantage of the league’s newly loosened policy. The update, which was made public last month, applies to official beer sponsors and takes effect this season.
Beer will still be treated like a second-class citizen: Players in ads must be in uniform, not street clothes, and they cannot make direct product endorsements. Also, brands cannot conduct their own ad shoots of players; they must use images from The Associated Press, Kelly confirms.
“A lot of imagery you’ll see is going to be live game footage or live game images,” he says. That, of course, limits creativity.
Kelly calls it progress but still hopes the NFL makes additional changes that put it on par with other pro sports leagues, which give beer brands more creative freedom. “I think [for] the NFL, given the size and complexity of the beast that it is, this is an easy first step to make everybody comfortable,” he says.
Bud Light is still finalizing its NFL campaign, including just how much it will use active players in ads this season, Kelly says. “I can’t guarantee that we are going to have them in our TV [commercials],” he says. “However, you will definitely see them at point-of-sale. You will definitely see them in out-of-home and most certainly digital.”
Kelly also gives an update on the brewer’s new incentive-based sports sponsorship model, in which teams and leagues it strikes deals with can make more money the better they perform. It’s a sea change from the traditional sponsorship model that is based on fixed fees.
“Every team that ever wins the World Series or Super Bowl or makes the playoffs comes to you during contract negotiations and expects [more] money,” he says, describing the old system. “That is just the expectation because they are more valuable today than they were yesterday.” But “at no point does the sponsor ever go back to them after they don’t make the playoffs and ask for their money back.” With AB InBev’s new approach, if a team is successful, they get an “immediate reward,” he says.