Food & Beverage

A leading beer from south of the border made waves in the U.S. beer market last month: Modelo Especial, an import sold since 2013 by Constellation Brands, became the top-selling beer in America, with 8.4% of retail-store sales, as reported in the Wall Street Journal last week.

The role sponsorships have played in the beer’s ascent is arguably the most interesting facet of the Modelo story. In 2019, 70% of the brand’s consumers were Hispanic, as  Constellation set its sights on expanding the beer’s mass-market appeal. With that goal in mind, Modelo has grown its sponsorship portfolio by a staggering 132% since then, to more than 70 partnerships–starting with NFL teams, where its number of total sponsorship assets has increased 15% to lead the brand’s property partner ranking. Modelo’s sponsorships across the other four U.S. major pro sports leagues have leveled out relatively evenly over the same period.

Meanwhile, Modelo’s non-Hispanic consumer base has grown to 45% since 2019, while the beer brand became the top seller in California, as well as in metropolitan areas including Chicago, Dallas, and Baltimore, according to Constellation. Modelo’s leadership in these markets directly reflects its endorsement strategy: they comprise four of Modelo’s top 6 sponsorship markets, while California, Chicago, and Dallas account for 37% of its total partnership assets.

Not surprisingly, Modelo’s purchase of high-level inventory–including club, deck, and bar naming rights, official sponsor, and field-level signage–has risen in step with its partnership growth. Notably, 5% of the brand’s deals include a community and cause activation.

Modelo has engaged more than 480K followers in the last 12 months on social media across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Interestingly, its best performing posts with athletes were with UFC fighters Stipe Miocic and Justin Gaethje. On the rights holder side, the Atlanta Hawks and Las Vegas Raiders lead the charge among the beer’s top co-branded posts.

In honor of Cinco de Mayo–the annual festive celebration of Mexican culture–let’s take a quick look at tequila, arguably Meixco’s favorite export.

More than 110 active brands bought sponsorships or media in the Tequila subcategory over the last 12 months, with each brand averaging 5 sponsorship deals.

Patrón was the most active brand with more than 45 sponsorships, among them properties like F1 driver Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez, the Miami Heat, Buffalo Bills, and Florida Panthers. Hornitos claims the 2nd spot with nearly 40 deals, while Don Julio ranks 3rd with more than 35. Jose Cuervo, Casamigos, Maestro Dobel, Mamitas, 1800 Tequila, el Jimador, and Herradura round out the top 10.

Digital content and social media are tied atop the list of most frequently bought sponsorship assets by Tequila brands, followed by venue products and services, interior signage and concourse signage, in that order.

The Tequila subcategory saw an incredible 81M in total engagement in the last year with more than 2K unique posts, led by a co-branded Instagram post by Kendall Jenner and 818 Tequila, which engaged a whopping 7.3M users. The partnership’s social campaign also scored the highest engagement among tequila brands, with 29.9M across just 9 posts. Meanwhile, a social campaign between Teremana Tequila and Dwayne (the Rock) Johnson ranked second, with 36 posts that engaged 24.1M.

The perennially popular NBA Playoffs kick off this Saturday, with 16 teams vying for the chance to ultimately take home an NBA championship ring. As basketball fans nationwide gear up for the 8 action-packed showdowns, here’s a snapshot of the league sponsorship landscape during the 2022-2023 regular season.

More than 2.7K brands bought sponsorships or media within the NBA, while each team averaged 76 sponsorship deals. Venue products/services, television, interior signage, and digital content led the list of most frequently bought assets.

The top 5 most active categories within the league this year were:

  1. Alcohol
  2. Financial
  3. Technology
  4. Auto
  5. Non-Alcoholic Beverages

Michelob Ultra, Budweiser, and Hennessy–the top 3 brands within the Alcohol category–have multi-year deals with both the league and multiple teams. Meanwhile, newer names including Bud Light Seltzer, Sire Spirits, and Cutwater Spirits emerged as the top 3 fastest growing brands within the category in terms of activations.

With 7 sponsorships each, Kenda Tires and Nexen Tires grew their footprints more than any other brands within the NBA this year–tying with Starry Soda–which became a league sponsor this season. Both tire companies leveraged courtside apron ads and basket stanchion digital ads the most within these deals.

The NBA engaged 86M users across all social media platforms this season with 35K total posts. The most engaging–a co-branded Instagram post by the Golden State Warriors with Japanese fintech company Rakuten, of Steph Curry showing off his team’s new NBA City Edition uniform–garnered engagement of nearly 1.1M. The Warriors launched the uniform as a part of the team’s #Empowered campaign, a celebration of women at the intersection of court, community and culture in the Bay Area. Through the campaign, the Warriors and Rakuten donated over $25K to the Women’s Sports Foundation.

During the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the concept of “Fan Fest” was replaced by the "Fan Festival" concept.

FIFA’s plan was to reintroduce the Fan Fest as a more diverse and inclusive entertainment offering encompassing a wide variety of cultures, art, music, food and football outside the stadiums. The concept will also be rolled out during the Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in 2023.

On December 4, the FIFA Fan Festival celebrated the 1 millionth visitor milestone across all of the Fan Festivals this year.

For this years World Cup, FIFA approved Fan Festival sites

  • BudX Fan Festivals in London, Seoul and Dubai
  • Corona Fan Festival in Mexico City, Mexico
  • Brahma Fan Festivals in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro
  • Coca-Cola Fan Festival in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  • Doha, Qatar, a non sponsored festival

Some of the Fan Festival activations:

  • Interactive physical and digital football game stations
  • Sponsored activations
  • Appearances from FIFA Legends
  • Official stores with licensed World Cup merchandise.
  • Content within the FIFA+ streaming platform.
  • A hat and cup from Budweiser for fans who attended the event in London, and an opportunity to win an England shirt signed by a football legend.
  • In London, Budweiser gave fans the opportunity to win an England signed shirt by a football legend.
  • An adidas-sponsored fan activation in Mexico where attendees played Teqball, a football-based sport played on a specially curved table within a designated area.
  • adidas also gave away little footballs before, during, and after games. After all games ended, the event host would throw 5 adidas balls into the crowd.
  • Coca-Cola branding across all of the table football (foosball tables) at the event in Mexico City.

Thanks to a new licensing model FIFA introduced in 2022, existing and future FIFA partners can launch local Fan Festivals in major cities outside the host countries to make the tournament experience more accessible for the global fan community.

  • SponsorUnited was in attendance at the festivals in London, Mexico City, Dubai and will be going to Doha on December 17th.

As we head into the holidays and the final month of 2022, here are the 30 brands most searched by sponsorship executives on the SponsorUnited platform in November.

Alcoholic beverage brand Beatbox Beverages debuted in the #1 spot with its first appearance on the coveted list this year, hot on the heels of the company’s October announcement that it raised $15M to support its national retail expansion. With over 40 sponsorship or media deals in 2022–including becoming the Official Punch of the Alabama Crimson Tide in September– the beverage company more than doubled its 2021 total of less than 20 deals, 93% of which were with music festivals.

MoneyLion also made the list for the first time this year, landing at #3. Last month was a big one for the fintech brand, which became the Official Money App and Jersey Patch Partner of NBA G League Ignite on November 3rd. MoneyLion also announced its first eight-member class of NIL partner athletes last month, which includes high-profile athletes across multiple sports, like UConn guard Azzi Fudd and USC wide receiver Brenden Rice. 70% of the brand’s partnerships are with athletes.

The Killer Brownie Company, November’s #4 most searched brand, entered the sponsorship space for the first time last month by announcing a partnership with the Cincinnati Bengals. The multi-year agreement makes the brand the Official Brownie of the team.

November Rankings

Beer–an understandably massive sponsorship category, given its popularity–has nearly 900 brands buying sponsorships and media across the sports and entertainment industries.

Three of the top brewers in the game–Anheuser-Busch InBev, Molson Coors Brewing Company, and Constellation Brands–dominate the partnership landscape with their marquee brands.

Bud Light leads the pack with more than 400 sponsorship deals–over 100 more than sister brand Budweiser in second place. Michelob Ultra’s third-place position gives parent AB InBev, the world’s largest beer company, the top three spots.

In social media, Bud Light also rules the roost with over 8M total followers (FB, TW, IG, TT). The Washington Capitals, one of its longtime partners, tagged the brand in more than 170 posts last season.

With over 200 deals, Coors Light is another sponsorship and social media powerhouse, with just north of 3M total followers. More than 10% of the beer’s total branded posts are with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, an AHL team that tagged Coors Light in 288 posts during their season. Twitter is the brand’s most utilized channel, and 29% of its partnerships include social media posts.

For 31 years, Coors has been the naming rights partner of Coors Field, home to the Colorado Rockies. Coors’ other assets throughout the stadium include:

  • Seating section naming rights
  • Bullpen signage
  • Logo on lower bowl seats
  • Interior signage
  • Concourse signage
  • Event content and activations, including the Designated Driver Program for fans

Corona USA, a high-wattage property of Constellation Brands, has just under 100 sponsorship deals. Earlier this year, Corona inked a contract with the MLB  to become its “Official Cerveza.” The partnership marks the first time the league has split its beer sponsorship category, as Budweiser is the Official Beer of the MLB.

Corona’s MLB partnership has boosted the brand’s profile on social media: the league has tagged the beer over 40 times in posts this season, 3 of which are Corona’s most successful posts to date by total engagement.

In a separate deal within the league, the Seattle Mariners signed Corona with the same “Official Cerveza” designation. A club within T-Mobile Park was christened the Corona Beach Club as part of the naming rights included in the partnership.

As we head into the fleeting days of summer, hard seltzer–one of the season’s favorite tipples–remains a happy hour staple. Let’s take a closer look at the sponsorship strategies of the industry’s major players.

Truly dominates the crowded category both as the most searched hard seltzer brand by executives on the SponsorUnited platform over the last 12 months, as well as the leader in sponsorships. At more than 160, Truly’s current number of deals jumped nearly 50% from last year, and increased 105% versus 2020.

This year, the brand set its sights on concert venues and amphitheaters, which comprise 26% of its total deals. Within pro sports, the NHL is its top target: Truly has partnerships with 11 teams, and a deal with the league itself.

Here’s how the rest of the category stacks up behind Truly:

  • Bud Light Seltzer
  • White Claw Hard Seltzer
  • Twisted Tea
  • VIZZY Hard Seltzer
  • Corona Hard Seltzer
  • Mike’s Hard Lemonade
  • High Noon Spirits
  • Michelob Ultra Organic Seltzer
  • Mamitas

Starting last spring, hard seltzer brands began gearing up for a festive summer with a sponsorship buying binge. A few notable deals:

  • July: Simply Spiked Lemonade became a first-time official partner of ABC’s ESPY Awards, sponsoring the Best Male Athlete prize as well as the event’s official after-party.
  • April: Twisted Tea partnered with its hometown team, the Boston Red Sox, to create a new, limited-edition flavor, "Sweet Cherry Lime." The collaboration paid homage to Red Sox fans’ favorite 8th inning song, "Sweet Caroline."
  • March: Molson Coors reached a multiyear agreement with the Chicago White Sox, resuming its 30+-year partnership after a brief hiatus. The brewer’s Miller Lite and Leininkugel’s became the team’s official domestic and craft beer partners, and VIZZY its official hard seltzer partner.

Most hard seltzer sponsorships contain digital content, social posts, and interior venue signage. Venue entitlements–such as clubs, lounges, and restaurants–are also common among these brands within event venues. The Molson Coors deal, for example, includes naming rights of multiple spaces inside Chicago’s Guaranteed Rate Field, including Vizzy View Bar and Miller Lite Landing.

What better season than summer for frozen treats? The industry is also feeling those warm-weather vibes: of the more than 60 brands overall buying sponsorship or media during the last year in the QSR - Ice Cream & Yogurt category, the top 3 brands ranked by sponsorship or media deals are Dairy Queen (200+), Kona Ice (50+), and Tropical Smoothie Cafe (35+).

Minor League Baseball is a huge target market for these three brands. Kona Ice leads with 46% of all its deals within MiLB, followed by Dairy Queen at 35%, and Tropical Smoothie Cafe at 11% within the league.

Dairy Queen became the Official Treat & Burger of Major League Baseball this season. The perennial fan favorite has had projected signage in the lower bowl, as well as multiple tags by MLB social media profiles across platforms. When someone hits a Grand Slam during the season Dairy Queen will be tagged on social media by the MLB as they are the sponsor of all Grand Slams this year.

Baseball is big business for Dairy Queen: 62% of its deals are within the baseball industry, across the MLB and its athletes, the MiLB, collegiate baseball, and independent baseball leagues.

Meanwhile, Kona Ice has a vendor relationship within 49% of its overall deals. The brand’s penchant for targeting amateur sports is clear: 34% of Kona’s total deals are within the Power 5 Collegiate conferences or MiLB. The NFL, where Kona is a vendor for five teams, ranks second, with 9% of its total deals. While headquartered in Kentucky, the brand’s top market by number of deals is Indianapolis, where Kona’s vendor relationship with five properties includes the Indiana Pacers.

Rounding out the top 3, Tropical Smoothie Cafe takes aim at collegiate sports, with 32% of all deals within the category, and Division 1 bowl games/tournaments their prime prospects. Since 2019, Tropical Smoothie has been an exclusive title sponsor of the Frisco Bowl, a Division 1 college football game in Frisco, Texas, which was renamed the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl.

The Spirits (Vodka) category has 80+ brands buying sponsorships or media across all property types.

Ranked by total sponsorships, brand leaders in this category include Tito's Handmade Vodka, Smirnoff, and New Amsterdam Vodka.

Spirits Category Report

We highlight the sponsorship and media portfolio of GameDay Vodka. The spirit brand has a significant presence in both the National Football League and Power 5 Schools & Conferences.

GameDay Vodka Brand Spotlight

NBA X Hennessy

June 2, 2022

The NBA and Hennessy, the leagues first Global Spirits Partner, partnered to unveil two one-of-kind basketball courts in May 2022. One court located in the front of the National Chang Kai Shek Memorial Hall in Taiwan, and a floating basketball court located off the coast of Sydney, Australia.

Download the SponsorUnited NBA 2021-22 Marketing & Partnerships Annual Report for more insights.

NBA X Hennessy

A beer brewed in Mexico, Dos Equis stays close to their roots having over 35 sponsorship or media deals just across the border in southwestern United States. Dos Equis' largest deal in terms of the number of sponsorship assets is with the NBA's Phoenix Suns. In this deal, the brand has naming rights to the beer garden inside of the arena, as well as digital signage during games.

However, NCAA earns the spotlight in terms of deals with Dos Equis.

The Mexican beer has partnership deals with five NCAA Bowls and Tourneys including the Rose Bowl and the Playstation Fiesta Bowl. The brand also has deals with over 15 NCAA Schools and Conferences like the NCAA Football Champions, the Georgia Bulldogs, and The Big Ten Conference.

Aside from Official Sponsorship status, Concourse Signage is in almost 40% of all of the brands sponsorship deals. Venue Entitlements is included in 25% of all sponsorship deals like the Cool Zone in partnership with the Texas A&M Aggies.

Even with more than 30 sponsorship deals, the import and domestic beer category has many brands with even more partnerships. Dos Equis falls in the top 15 in the category which is led by Bud Light.

Dos Equis Brand Spotlight

Kellogg’s has over 80 sponsorship deals while a third of those deals come within the college space including schools as well as bowl games and tournaments. Frosted Flakes deals alone span across more than 15 NCAA properties. Most notably though, Kellogg’s utilizes the Cheez-It brand as the presenting sponsor of a college football bowl game during as well as the Hall of Fame Tip-Off at the beginning of the basketball season.

Across Major Pro Sports, Kellogg’s has a league deal with the MLS which spans across 16 of their 27 teams as seen in the SponsorUnited MLS 2021 Marketing & Partnerships Annual Report. Cheez-It and Pringles are the Official Snacks of the MLS and eMLS and their other brand Eggo, is the Official Waffle. The focus of their partnership with the MLS is to engage with their younger, multicultural audience.

Within all of their sponsorship deals, 64% of their deals include TV-Visible signage including courtside aprons, digital ads on the goal line and exit tunnel signage. TV-Visible signage and Property Entitlements are the largest assets secured in Kellogg’s sponsorship deals.

In honor of National Margarita Day, here are the most active tequila brands among all sponsorships & media partnerships: Don Julio, Hornitos Tequila, and El Jimador. Of the 75+ brands tracked, Hornitos was the fastest growing across NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and MLS while Don Julio was the fastest growing within music.

Don Julio signed a deal with Austin FC during their inaugural season in 2021 having six sponsorship assets with the team. The assets they had with the team ranged from signage in the stadium to in-store point of sale activations as well as a sponsored attendee take home item. Don Julio has over 10 sponsorships within the music space including artists having a deal with country music artist, Ingrid Andress.

Hornitos has over 25 sponsorship, media or vendor deals across the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and MLS while more than five of those currently are a sponsorship deal as well. Besides use of marks, TV-visible signage is the most bought asset by the brand as it is included in 35% of deals.

El Jimador is the leading Tequila brand in the MLS with eight deals in 2021, more than doubling the second brand Lunazul Tequila. Their biggest deal in terms of sponsorship assets comes with the MLS Cup Champions, New York City FC. On the digital media front, the two organizations worked together to have a sponsored video on the website and app as well as content sponsored on the Pup Partner page on the website.

Tequila Brands Lineup
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