AB InBev Exec. Says New Performance-Driven Sponsorship Model Allows Brand To Be ‘More Nimble, More Agile’

(Courtesy of Leaders/Twitter)

NEW YORK — The Anheuser-Busch InBev brand portfolio doesn’t need awareness at this point in its life existence. Instead, the company needs to be meaningful with how it markets the likes of Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob and Busch, according to marketing executive Joao Chueiri.

The rationale is just part of the reason why the brand launched a performance-driven sponsorship model last November, news that caught the sports industry’s attention despite “everyone kind of expecting this to happen,” Chueiri said.

“It allows us to be more nimble, more agile,” the Vice President of Consumer Connections said of the new business strategy at the Leaders Sport Business Summit during Leaders Week New York last month.

“We need to be committed to results.”

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Chueiri described the current sports landscape as one where there’s been change in consumers’ behaviors and habits, declining television viewership, fewer fans attending sporting events, consumers’ discretionary income being spent on other forms of entertainment like concerts and music festivals and finally, the domestic beer category facing increased disruption from imported brands, craft beers and IPAs.

“It’s a challenge for us,” he said.

That led to AB InBev re-evaluating its sponsorship model and partnerships, which includes more than 100 teams in the United States and professional leagues such as the NFL, NBA, MLB, PGA TOUR, World Surf League, NASCAR and others.

Chueiri explained that AB InBev chose one partner from each league whose deal was expiring and engaged with them to gain initial feedback on the revamped sponsorship strategy. Once the company had ‘I’m in’ commitments from at least one team per league, Chueiri said that’s when it decided to publicly announce how it would proceed with the business initiative going forward.

New metrics and new KPIs equated to traditional 10-year deals being shortened to a few years complete with a base fee, with additional payment incentives for both on-the-field or court performance in addition to away from the playing surface. As Chueiri suggested, brand signage was just one of the deal components that’s been de-emphasized in the new model. AB InBev has implemented the arrangement around expiring deals that could be renewed, inking new arrangements with NASCAR and the Los Angeles Dodgers, among others.

Two months ago, according to Chueiri, AB InBev gathered with all of its partners versus orchestrating separate league-wide meetings. The sit-down accomplished two specific goals, including an over-arching theme that future partner conversations could be more efficient because “with incentive-based now, it’s very clear to them what we’re looking for.”

Said Chueiri of the meeting: “They all heard from us what are the priorities for us, what are the challenges that we’re trying to overcome. They all together heard from us. It was great because I think every time you hear these conversations, partners might think about AB InBev, and if they’re doing all of this for all of the partners. So, telling everyone in the same room, ‘Here’s the direction. This is how we want to work together. These are our five priorities’.

The other thing is we also showed them best practices of some of their work with us. We said, ‘Look, here’s a great example of experiential. Here’s an example of using data to drive more engagement inside the event’. They could see great partners doing amazing things. They could see, ‘OK, we’re not doing this. We need to do this’.

“A lot of collaboration happened. Since then, we’ve already sat down with a few of them as we’re re-negotiating contracts this year. It was great because since they heard from us and the five priorities, they could come to the contract negotiation with a very smart plan. ‘Hey. We heard you. You asked for these five things. This is how we’re addressing those five things’. It’s a much better place, these contract negotiations. Now, we know what we have to do together. The feedback has been extremely positive.”

Though Chueiri didn’t specifically cite how many total, he did say at Leaders that every sports deal that’s been up for renewal following the company’s announcement of its new sponsorship model, the brand has been able to keep.

About Mark J. Burns

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