Narly New Sports Sponsorship For Michelob ULTRA – Forbes

Michelob ULTRA will now have branding attached to the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

Michelob ULTRA is now the Official Beer Sponsor of the World Surf League (WSL) in the U.S., which includes sponsorship of the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach, California, an event that draws over 700,00 fans in late July/early August. It is the latest wave of sports sponsorship for the fastest growing beer brand in the U.S. that also recently signed an endorsement deal with PGA TOUR golfer Brooks Koepka.

Surfing is a completely different space than golf and most other sports sponsorships that seek scale, especially for an already sizable domestic and international brand. Yet, Michelob ULTRA says that its new deal with the WSL fits cleanly within its sports sponsorship strategy — a focus on engaging drinkers who embrace and prioritize an active, balanced lifestyle, according to Michelob ULTRA VP of Marketing Azania Andrews.

From a sports perspective, we really look for properties that can help us bring that proposition to life, whether it be running, CrossFit or spin classes . . . where you can celebrate at the end of exercises with beers” says Andrews.

That may seem counter-intuitive at first. How can a beer brand be authentic as an advocate for fitness and living an active lifestyle? It certainly bucks the traditional role that beer has occupied for sports fans and fitness communities and it is a challenge Andrews thinks her brand can win.

“I think that we want to cement our role as leaders in the active lifestyle space, so we are looking to continue to make strategic investments,” adds Andrews. “We have been pleasantly surprised at the growth of this as a trend alongside our growth. Run clubs that have a ‘no shower happy hour,’ ending runs at a favorite local bar, CrossFit celebrating the end of the week with beer. Even marathons have a longstanding celebration with beer post-completion.”

Andrews says she sees the social communities around working out as being the new bar — an opportunity for people to gather socially where alcohol is involved and fitness is a natural compliment.

As for the WSL, Michelob ULTRA views surfing as a growing sport reaching millions of consumers in the U.S. While the beer brand is certainly interested in scale, it seems to be fixated on associating with the right fits for the brand based on the active lifestyle strategy.

“Here’s a sport where there’s this really interesting dynamic between professionals . . . a casual surf community populated by hard working professional people who use surf to create balance in their lives and then people who simply appreciate the sport,” explains Andrews. “I feel there’s a role for beer to play for all in the experience.”

From golf to surf to a longstanding relationship with the Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon, Michelob ULTRA has found its niche within the world of sport sponsorship. Whether this portion of the marketing mix is working or not, the beer brand itself is concurrently having success based on its sheer growth in the recent past.

Darren Heitner the Founder of South Florida-based HEITNER LEGAL, P.L.L.C. and Sports Agent Blog. He authored the book, How to Play the Game: What Every Sports Attorney Needs to Know.

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