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    Anheuser-Busch partners with University of Texas as college athletics rebound

    • Anheuser-Busch InBev is now the official domestic and craft beer sponsor and the non-exclusive ready-to-drink (RTD) canned cocktail sponsor of The University of Texas (UT) Athletics, per a news release. As part of the deal, the brewer will also sponsor the university’s alumni association and the AT&T Red River Showdown.
    • The company will be releasing limited-edition, Texas-exclusive co-branded cans of Bud Light featuring UT’s “Hook ‘em Horns” rally cry. Additionally, the brewer will host in-stadium and on-site activations, including signage and pregame street parties.
    • The news comes weeks after Anheuser-Busch announced it would no longer be the exclusive alcoholic beverage advertiser of the Super Bowl, a monopoly the company held for 33 years. The partnership with UT Athletics reflects the company’s commitment to sports marketing along with the increasing acceptability of alcoholic beverage companies as sponsors of collegiate sports.

    Anheuser-Busch has a long history of sports sponsorship, including many long-standing collegiate sports relationships. It also has deep ties to the Lone Star State, making the partnership with UT a logical one. Currently, one in seven Bud Lights sold in the U.S. is sold in Texas, per the release. Additionally, Anheuser-Busch’s Houston brewery produces 87% of all Bud Lights sold in the state.

    The partnership with UT Athletics is set to last for five years. In addition to on-site activations like the pregame parties, the brewer is bringing its “Decide to Ride” campaign to the campus. “Decide to Ride,” which was launched in 2021, is a partnership between Anheuser-Busch InBev, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Uber, which encourages drinkers to make plans to get home safely.

    “Our sponsorship strategy is focused on fan passions — from sports, to music, to food. College athletics are a major source of that overall fandom and we’re excited about the opportunities our brands can play in growing that passion among 21+ fans,” said Matt Davis, head of sports marketing, Anheuser-Busch in an email to Marketing Dive.

    College football is a major American pastime, with 22.6 million viewers tuning into the 2022 College Football Playoff Championships, a 19% increase from 2021. Nearly 30% of all television viewers were tuned into the game. While viewership pales in comparison to the NFL, college football is a powerful advertising force.

    However, alcohol brands sponsoring college athletics have always had a tricky balancing act. College athletic teams are made up of college kids, who typically fall between 17 and 23 years of age. This means that many of the athletes playing on these teams are not of legal drinking age. Many students who attend these games tend to not be of legal drinking age either. Many college football stadiums don’t sell alcohol at all, while some do. The NCAA has its own set of complicated rules and workarounds regarding alcohol sponsorship.

    Despite this, college football remains a significant opportunity for advertisers who are looking to go after sports fans. This is especially true in southern states, where college football is revered in many communities. With the Texas Longhorns one of the most popular collegiate sport teams in the country, the Anheuser-Busch partnership may prove fruitful.

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