Michelob Ultra commits $100 million to women's sports

Pledge arriving in time for Women's Equality Day debuts alongside 'Save It, See It' campaign from Gut

Published On
Aug 27, 2021

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In time for Women’s Equality Day, Anheuser-Busch InBev's Michelob Ultra is backing female athletes with a $100 million investment. 

The brand is promising that by 2025, 50% of its non-product-focused ad campaigns will feature female athletes or women's sports. All of its advertising, as well as its "Team Ultra" roster of influencers and talents, will show equal representation of female and male athletes.

The announcement comes alongside the debut of “Save It, See It,” a new campaign from Gut that encourages consumers to back female athletes on social media. It features a new ad spotlighting influential female sports personalities: L.A. Sparks player and WNBA Players Association President Nneka Ogwumike; basketball analyst and former NCAA athlete Andraya Carter and CeCe Telfer, LGBTQ+ advocate and the first openly transgender female athlete to win an NCAA title. Though the new spot doesn't say so explicitly, the ad appears to reference Instagram specifically, featuring what looks like the "save" flag icon that appears at the bottom right corner of posts on the platform. The overarching idea, however, is to garner support for female athletes across all platforms in order to increase the visibility that will help them achieve parity with their male peers in salaries and sponsorships.

The work is the first for the brand from Gut. Michelob Ultra also works with FCB, which created the "Courtside" experiential push, among other efforts, and Wieden+Kennedy New York, which was behind the Super Bowl ad starring athletes in their downtime. 

The new effort arrives on Women's Equality Day, which celebrates the adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment in the U.S., ensuring women's right to vote. It dramatically ramps up Michelob Ultra’s ongoing support of women’s sports, which has continued over the last 18 months. The brand is the official beer sponsor of the WNBA and has highlighted female athletes such as Serena Williams and Alex Morgan as part of its "Team Ultra" roster of talents.

"As a leader in both beer and sports marketing industries, Michelob Ultra firmly believes that every athlete deserves to experience an equal level of joy in sports," says Ricardo Marques, VP of marketing, Michelob Ultra. "This commitment reinforces this point of view and is very unique both in terms of scale and how it's designed to address the root cause of the issue, which is visibility. It’s about Michelob Ultra walking the talk—this commitment is a manifestation of our mantra 'it’s only worth it if you enjoy it,' bringing joy and balance to women’s sports."

CeCe Telfer in Michelob Ultra's 'Save it, See It' campaign; Credit: Michelob Ultra

The brewer has previously made bold moves to support women’s sports. In 2019, after Budweiser signed on as the official sponsor of the National Women’s Soccer League, the brand debuted a campaign calling on advertisers in other major categories to give its backing as well. 

As for AB InBev's own initiatives to promote equity more broadly, the company has long supported equal pay, and the brewer was the first beer brand to sign the White House Equal Pay pledge back in 2016. One of the company's longest-running employee resources groups is Women In Beer, whose mission is "to make Anheuser-Busch one of the top places for women to work in the U.S., by championing gender inclusion & equality to drive change in the beer industry, building a community of internal and external change makers.” The company's global senior leadership, however, remains male-dominated, with only two of the 18 executive posts held by women. By contrast, at liquor giant Diageo, women account for six of the 14 executive committee positions

Michelob Ultra isn’t the only beer to back women in sports. In March, Molson Coors became the first beer sponsor of three-time WNBA Championship winners the L.A. Sparks—the first all-encompassing beverage deal of its kind in the league’s history. The brand also now sponsors the Connecticut Sun, while AB InBev backs the Minnesota Lynx and the Washington Mystics and Heineken sponsors the Phoenix Mercury. 

Tickets to the 2021 Ad Age Leading Women Conference & Award are available at AdAge.com/LeadingWomen.