AB InBev wins rights to put NBA and MLB stars in beer ads

Budweiser parent company AB InBev has overcome decades of opposition to the use of athletes in beer commercials, after signing two new marketing deals with the NBA and MLB players associations.

For the first time in around 60 years, AB InBev will be able to use names and images of active NBA and MLB players across all forms of advertising.

Uniformed NBA and MLB players can now be shown in Budweiser ads featuring in-game footage and players speaking directly to camera, but the players will not be shown holding or drinking beer.

AB InBev has reportedly spent months negotiating the new rights, and ran some early activation tests in the form of a Mother’s Day TV ad featuring Kevin Durant (pictured), and a series of point-of-sale ads around this year’s MLB All-Star Game.

Last year, the NBA Players Association took control of sponsorship negotiations involving collective image rights, making it easier for AB InBev to find a mutually beneficial arrangement between itself and the players.

Previously, the NBA had handled all sponsorship negotiations with brands centrally, and had shared the revenue with the players association once the partnership was active.

The players association has since become more bullish in seeking sponsorship deals, and the beer category represents one of its largest sources of potential revenue.

The NFL has a specific policy banning players from featuring in beer ads, but industry insiders believe this could soon change after the NFL gave the green light to gambling sponsors this season, signaling a more relaxed approach to raising sponsorship revenue.

AB InBev has sponsored the MLB since 1980, and the NBA since 1998.