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TNL Take: Last year Bud Light made a big splash with their first investment within eSports.
While the program wasn’t perfect and did receive some negative feedback most missed the bigger picture:
- Alcohol brands have previously barely sponsored Gaming let alone eSports — that’s a huge first
- This was Year 1 for a major brand to enter a new space — plenty of valuable education will come from the first integration
- A/B InBev spent $1.4B on the NFL alone for Bud Light to be the NFL’s official beer sponsor through 2022 — any eSports leagues that may want a piece of this?
Now Bud Light has greatly extended it’s program in 2017 and here’s a breakdown of the various elements to their new eSports investment.
/01 BUD LIGHT ALL STARS 2.0
Bud Light’s first foray into eSports last year centered around their Bud Light All-Stars program which selected several athletes and influencers from across different gaming genres with 5 winners.
Those complaining about why certain popular players weren’t nominated didn’t consider that they had to be 21+ and North American and not have have team owners ask for exorbitant money from a first time sponsor.
This year consisted of 16 nominees across Counter-Strike, Hearthstone, Call of Duty and Street Fighter V with the winners of each game streaming consecutively on Twitch for 8 hours along with giving away prizes and bits — a little more on that soon.
What’s interesting in Bud Light’s All-Star approach is that instead of sponsoring a complete team or league for a game they may not be able to work with directly — Street Fighter and it’s publisher Capcom for example — their All-Star ended up being one of the top Pro’s in that scene which allows them to still get attached to that games brand.
/02 BUD LIGHT ALL-STARS MANSION
Bud Light also created a content series with the final episode culminating with the All-Stars being flown out and staying in a mansion in Vegas.
/03 BUD LIGHT EVENTS
In conjunction with the eSports voting component, Bud Light continued to invest in events by presenting at both DreamHack Austin and DreamHack Atlanta, which included an on sight Happy Hour each day.
/04 BUD LIGHT AND BARS
In addition to activating at DreamHack Atlanta, Bud Light did something very simple that provides a starting point for collecting data and measuring advertising ROI: they partnered with a local bar and DreamHack attendees that showed their badge unlocked specials.
The possibilities to extend this further are endless.
/05 BUD LIGHT CANADA
Any sign of a successful advertising program — or willing to explore the opportunity further — are renewals. Bud Light not only has clearly increased their investment in the US but has also extended their eSports initiative to Canada as well.
While the Canadian portion isn’t as extensive as the US counterpart, the addition of an opportunity to spend a weekend with your favorite Bud Light All-Star at a Gaming house is pretty cool and they’ve included similar concepts to music and UFC in addition to eSports.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR BUD LIGHT?
Beer advertising is a $1B+ market in the US alone with a majority spent around sports content.
The exclusive study that The Next Level conducted with Wunderman showed how much greater the eSports audience indexed within the Alcohol category vs. the March Madness audience for comparison:
Considering that Bud Light is currently reigning in the Alcohol category, I’d envision competitors moving in very quickly and for it to be the 2nd fastest growing brand category after Auto for eSports in 2017.
However I wouldn’t expect AB InBev to sit back idly and with just a fraction of their overall sports advertising budget, could continue to own eSports market share.
Which League or Game could get Bud Light get into next?
Major League Baseball = No eSports
Rocket League = Too Young
League of Legends = Too global whereas Bud Light is primarily North American
NBA2K League = Potentially but I would bet on Mountain Dew first
Overwatch League = Maybe but also skews a bit younger and would they dive in at the current prices in Year 1?
So what’s left?
Just the NFL and Madden.
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