AB InBev’s Budweiser becomes Olympics’ first beer brand global sponsor

AB InBev’s Budweiser becomes Olympics’ first beer brand global sponsor

Paris at Sunset – Home of the 2024 Olympics

AB InBev’s Budweiser becomes Olympics’ first beer brand global sponsor

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has, for the first time in its 40-year sponsorship history, partnered with a beer brand, welcoming Anheuser-Busch InBev into its multi-billion dollar sponsorship program that benefits both the organization and international sports. This landmark agreement was unveiled by the IOC and AB InBev, the brewing behemoth from Belgium known for popular labels such as Budweiser, Corona, Michelob, and Modelo, covering the upcoming three Summer and Winter Olympic Games. The collaboration kicks off with the Paris Olympics, set to commence on July 26, and will extend through the 2026 Winter Olympics in Northern Italy, culminating with what is anticipated to be a highlight event at the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028.

The IOC has not disclosed how much the sponsorship costs, but estimates point to north of 300$ Million.

Corona Cero, the non-alcoholic variant of the globally second most valuable beer brand Corona, will serve as the worldwide beer sponsor for the Olympic Games, announced the leaders of the IOC and AB InBev. While the financial terms of the sponsorship were not revealed, it is known that some sponsors of the IOC’s TOP (The Olympic Partner) program contribute over $300 million for a four-year commercial partnership.

AB InBev, with its extensive support for sports worldwide, aims to celebrate the communal spirit that sports and beer jointly foster among fans, according to AB InBev CEO Michel Doukeris during an interview with The Associated Press. “Beer and sports are a natural pairing for fans,” Doukeris remarked, highlighting the company’s commitment to enhancing the sports viewing experience.

Since its inception in 1985, a year after the commercially revitalizing Los Angeles Games, the IOC’s TOP program has primarily partnered with companies in the technology and logistics sectors, such as Deloitte, Intel, and Toyota, to aid Olympic Games organizers in host cities. This marks the first time the Olympic organization has engaged with a beer or alcohol brand for its globally celebrated event, which is recognized as the zenith of athletic excellence and features an increasingly youthful roster of medalists in new sports like skateboarding. Nevertheless, beer sponsorships have been commonplace at the local level; for example, Chinese officials designated Budweiser as the international beer for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The IOC’s historical collaborations with Coca-Cola and McDonald’s led to a moment of reflection in 2012 when then-president Jacques Rogge acknowledged the need for these partners to contribute to the fight against obesity by offering healthier, low-sugar, and low-fat alternatives. While Coca-Cola remains an Olympic sponsor, the partnership with McDonald’s was concluded prematurely in 2017, three years before its scheduled end.

The IOC has always maintained a marketing philosophy that shuns commercial ties with products that could undermine its mission or the values of Olympism. When queried about the timing of the new sponsorship agreement, Thomas Bach, who succeeded Rogge as IOC president, highlighted the alignment of shared values between the IOC and its new partner, emphasizing the celebration of sports and unity that both entities cherish.

“We are organizations that are eager for success, yet we understand the importance of social responsibility that accompanies such achievements,” Bach commented during a press conference.

AB InBev’s CEO, Michel Doukeris, in an interview with The Associated Press, saw no conflict in having Corona Cero as the global Olympic brand and Michelob Ultra sponsoring the U.S. team and the 2028 LA Olympics, citing the promotion of responsible drinking as a core message.

The market for non-alcoholic beverages has seen a significant uptick, driven by health-conscious younger consumers and a general trend towards moderation, outpacing the growth of alcoholic beverage sales over recent years. From 2018 to 2023, non-alcoholic drink sales in the top 10 markets surged by 70% to over $8.5 billion, while alcoholic drinks experienced a 14% growth to $470 billion, according to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis.

This shift presents alcohol companies with an opportunity to retain customers within their brand portfolio, according to Susie Goldspink, head of no- and low-alcohol insights at IWSR. For instance, a consumer transitioning from alcoholic Corona to Corona Cero remains a win for AB InBev.

IOC sponsors, now totaling a record 15, are restricted from showcasing their names or slogans at Olympic venues. Thus, there will be no visual presence of Corona Cero marketing amidst competitions, such as skateboarding or gymnastics, in Paris. However, sponsors do gain exclusive global rights to use Olympic branding, like the iconic five rings, in their advertising and promotional activities.

The sponsorship program has been lucrative for the IOC, generating almost $2.3 billion in cash, services, and value-in-kind for the cycle ending with the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

The partnership with the beer industry begins in France, where a 33-year ban on alcohol sales in sports stadiums is in place, though alcohol is available in premium hospitality areas.

Fans heading to Paris have diverse views on alcohol’s role at the Games, emphasizing the event’s focus on world-class competition and cross-cultural unity over drinking. Some attendees, like KC Branch, a 61-year-old attorney, and Wendi Johnson, a 46-year-old professor, appreciate the emphasis on a family-friendly atmosphere free from alcohol-induced misbehaviors. Meanwhile, others like Derick Gavidia, a 35-year-old tech worker, view the option to purchase alcohol as a nice-to-have but not essential to their Olympic experience, prioritizing the events, atmosphere, and memories above all.

History of Budweiser

Budweiser, an iconic American beer, traces its origins back to 1876 when Carl Conrad, a German immigrant, decided to create a beer that would echo the Bohemian lager style, popular in his homeland. He collaborated with Eberhard Anheuser and Adolphus Busch, the founders of what would become Anheuser-Busch, to brew this novel beer. Adolphus Busch, utilizing pasteurization and a network of ice-cooled railroad cars, was instrumental in ensuring that Budweiser could be the first national beer brand by maintaining its freshness during transportation across the United States. This innovation marked a turning point in the beer industry, setting Budweiser on a path to becoming a household name.

The early 20th century was a challenging period for Budweiser and the entire American brewing industry due to the Prohibition era (1920-1933), which banned the production, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages. Anheuser-Busch navigated these turbulent times by diversifying its product line to include non-alcoholic beverages such as soft drinks and malt syrup. Despite these efforts, the company’s survival was at stake. However, the end of Prohibition marked a resurgence for Budweiser, as it quickly reestablished itself as a leader in the beer market, benefiting from the infrastructure and distribution networks that had been kept intact during the dry years.

Post-Prohibition, Budweiser embarked on an era of innovation and expansion. In the 1950s, Anheuser-Busch introduced the Budweiser can, significantly expanding the beer’s accessibility and convenience for American consumers. The latter half of the 20th century saw Budweiser solidifying its position as “The King of Beers,” a slogan that aptly reflected its dominant market presence. The brand was adept at marketing, utilizing various mediums from print to television, which featured memorable campaigns such as the Budweiser Clydesdales and the “Wassup” commercials. These efforts helped Budweiser to not only become synonymous with American beer but also a significant cultural icon.

Entering the 21st century, Budweiser has faced new challenges and opportunities. The rise of craft beers and changing consumer preferences towards more diverse and artisanal beer options have seen Budweiser adapting its strategy to maintain relevance. In 2008, Anheuser-Busch merged with InBev, forming Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest beer company. This merger allowed Budweiser to tap into new markets and expand its global footprint. Today, Budweiser continues to be a major player in the beer industry, renowned for its rich history and contribution to the development of the American beer landscape. Despite the evolving market dynamics, Budweiser remains a symbol of quality and tradition to beer enthusiasts around the world.

History of the Modern Olympics

The Modern Olympics, a global spectacle uniting nations through the spirit of competition and camaraderie, trace their origins to the vision of Pierre de Coubertin, a French educator and historian. Inspired by the ancient Olympic Games held in Greece, de Coubertin aimed to revive this tradition to foster peace and understanding among nations. His efforts culminated in the first Modern Olympic Games in 1896, held in Athens, Greece. Despite initial skepticism, the event was a success, featuring 241 athletes from 14 nations, competing in 43 events. This marked the beginning of the Modern Olympics, setting the stage for what would become the world’s foremost sports competition.

As the 20th century unfolded, the Olympics faced numerous challenges, including two World Wars, which led to the cancellation of the 1916, 1940, and 1944 Games. Despite these setbacks, the Olympics emerged as a symbol of global unity and resilience. The post-war era saw significant expansion and innovation in the Olympic movement. The introduction of the Winter Olympic Games in 1924 in Chamonix, France, broadened the scope of competition to include winter sports, while the Paralympic Games, established in 1960, emphasized inclusivity for athletes with disabilities. The latter half of the 20th century also witnessed the advent of the Youth Olympic Games, further extending the Olympic ideals to young athletes.

Throughout its history, the Olympics have not only been a showcase for athletic excellence but also a platform for social and political statements. The 1968 Mexico City Games were notable for the iconic Black Power salute by American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos. The 1972 Munich Olympics were tragically marred by the terrorist attack on the Israeli team. The 1980 and 1984 Games were affected by Cold War tensions, with the United States and the Soviet Union leading boycotts. Despite such controversies, the Olympics have continually strived to uphold the principles of peace, respect, and mutual understanding.

In recent years, the Olympic Games have continued to evolve, reflecting the changing landscape of global sports. The introduction of new sports and disciplines, such as skateboarding, surfing, and sport climbing, aims to capture the interest of younger audiences and reflect the diversity of athletic talent worldwide. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics, held in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, showcased the resilience of the Olympic spirit amidst unprecedented challenges. As the Olympics look towards the future, with upcoming Games in Paris (2024), Milan-Cortina (2026), and Los Angeles (2028), they remain a testament to humanity’s enduring quest for excellence, unity, and peace through sport.

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