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Natural Light Uses Athlete Partnerships To Help Launch “Naturdays”

Natural engaged with Pat McAfee, Chris Buescher and Barstool Sports to help market its latest product, the Naturdays lager.

Max Simpson

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Photo Credit: Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Natural Light has been a staple line of Anheuser-Busch since it was introduced in 1977, but that hasn’t prevented the brand from trying to evolve. For its latest product, the “Naturdays” lager, that growth includes a promotion strategy heavily tied to athlete partnerships.

Naturdays launched on February 25th after Senior Director of Value Brands at Anheuser-Busch Daniel Blake and his team determined that their market share, which he describes as “young, millennial drinkers,” was ready for an alternative to the “Natural Light” and “Natural Ice” staples.

“We noticed a gap in the market with the new 21-plus-year-old drinkers,” said Blake. “There was an opportunity to bring more variety to that consumer, specifically with an innovative economy beer that had a unique flavor.”

READ MORE: Buffalo Wild Wings Leverages March Madness to Get Back to Sports Bar Roots

The solution was a beer designed for all-day refreshment and incorporated a flavor that the company would later describe as being brewed “for those who like strawberry lemonade… and drinking beer.” From there, Blake and the Anheuser-Busch team set out to add to their existing consumer base. It was a deliberate attempt to strike a balance between choice and keeping brand awareness in mind. Naturdays was intended to put a unique spin on Natural Light beers while still maintaining the same quality of taste.

But the branding strategy was as important as the product itself. Naturday first engaged with former NFL punter and current media personality Pat McAfee, who signed on to help announce the product to his more-than-1.5 million Twitter followers. According to Blake, McAfee, who currently hosts the Pat McAfee Show 2.0 and recently signed on as a contributor with WWE, is both an ideal branding partner for the beer as well as an enthusiastic consumer.

“When Pat tried Naturdays for the first time, he took a sip and said, ‘You guys are about to sell a billion of these Naturdays things,” Blake said. “Pat McAfee is known so well for his legendary stories and storytelling – he was literally tailor-made to depict the definition of a Naturday.”

McAfee wasn’t the only sports figure that the brand tapped for their new launch. The drive continued on March 3rd at NASCAR’s Penzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, when Chris Buescher’s #37 Chevrolet was decked out in the Naturdays pink-and-yellow color scheme with flamingos all over. Natural Light has had a paint scheme on Buescher’s car dating back to 2017, but the latest stunt was perhaps its most unique way to engage its community.

Customizing a high-powered stock car in front of a nationally televised audience also amounted to a massive statement of intent, one that complemented a line of Naturdays-themed merchandise including Hawaiian shirts, hats, socks, and inflatable flamingos.

“From putting a recent graduate’s resume on Chris’ race car to now branding with Naturdays, we have found Chris to be a perfect fit for the Natty Light brand as an up-and-coming, younger driver,” Blake said.

All of that helped build steam to a collaboration with Barstool Sports built around the return of #NattyTour, the latest edition to Barstool’s several-years-old partnership with Natural Light. The tour has taken on a life of its own as Barstool has traveled to multiple college towns in an effort to engage directly with their own fan base. #NattyTour stops will be made at the top moments of sports throughout the year: marquee horse races, the biggest college football games, and several others. For spring break, Barstool personalities including Ellie Schnitt and Big Ev traveled to Texas, where they highlighted top moments and sporting events from the confines of a Natural Light- branded RV. Naturdays took center stage via its inclusion in the “77-pack,” a box of 77 Natural Light-branded beers. A special edition 77-pack, featuring the new Naturdays, was exclusively available at South Padre Island throughout spring break and sold out almost immediately.

“The #NattyTour started in 2016, and after a hiatus in 2018, was brought back in 2019,” said Blake. “The Tour, in partnership with Barstool Sports, is one of the most impactful ways we’re able to connect directly with our fans and create unforgettable experiences for them. We’re always looking at new, interesting and different events that the Natty drinker is passionate about and where we can create moments and stories.”

READ MORE: USA Today Turns to Selfie Videos To Better Engage Audience

Blake says the feedback across the social media landscape has been extremely positive and receptive towards the new brand. With die-hard Natural Lights fans continuing to support the new Naturdays line, coupled with adding new consumers into their fan base, the brand has positioned itself to further make waves within the beer marketplace.

“It’s been incredible to see how the Natty Light community has rallied around Naturdays right from the start, and even before it hit market,” said Blake. “The response has been beyond our expectations.”

Max Simpson is a contributing writer for Front Office Sports. A graduate from Arizona State University, Max currently works for the Reno Aces & Reno 1868 FC with time spent with Sun Devil Athletics and the Arizona Diamondbacks. For @frntofficesport, Max highlights unique partnerships, brand marketing strategies, and content activation. He can be reached at max@frntofficesport.com.

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NHL Keeps Running On Dunkin’ With New Deal

Dunkin’ became an NHL league-level sponsor in 2017, which was the company’s first-ever national sports league partnership.

Ian Thomas

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Photo Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Dunkin’ has signed a multi-year extension of its deal with the NHL, continuing its position as the official coffee, donut and breakfast sandwich of the league in the U.S.

The deal, expected to be announced tonight prior to game five of the Stanley Cup Final in Boston, marks the twelfth major partner that the NHL has signed or renewed its deal with in recent months.

Dunkin’ became an NHL league-level sponsor in 2017, which was the company’s first-ever national sports league partnership. Over the course of the last two seasons, the partnership has seen Dunkin’ become one of the NHL’s most active corporate sponsors in terms of its presence at major NHL events, partnerships with local teams, marketing campaigns and other fan-facing efforts.

READ MORE: Following NBA’s Lead, NHL Taps Massive Chinese Market for Fans

NHL Group Vice President of Partnership Marketing Evin Dobson said that since becoming a sponsor, Dunkin’ has ranked at the top or in the top three of the league’s internal metrics regarding fan awareness or engagement of its partners.

Dunkin’ has been front and center this Stanley Cup Final as well, as its national advertising campaign starring Eastern Conference Champion Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak has been heavily featured during NBC’s television coverage of the playoffs. The campaign was created by BBDO Worldwide, which was named Dunkin’s new agency of record in April 2018.

“When you have an advertising campaign that even the broadcast talent is talking about on-air, you know you’re creating great fan engagement with what you’re doing,” Dobson said.

Tom Manchester, Dunkin’ U.S. senior vice president of integrated marketing, said much of the deal with the league will be similar to how its current deal is structured – it will continue to hold exclusive rights in those U.S. categories, it will activate around the partnership at NHL league events and it will have a presence across broadcast, digital and social media channels throughout the season, which includes a multi-million dollar partnership with NBC Sports for custom in-game features during games. Dunkin’ will also activate alongside the NHL’s esports tournament, the NHL Gaming World Championship, which will hold its final in Las Vegas later this month.

However, the new deal will see Dunkin’ adding two new local team partnerships in the deal, with the Carolina Hurricanes and the Vegas Golden Knights. Dunkin’ now has 15 NHL team-level deals.

READ MORE: NHL Turns to Corner Ice Placements to Grow On-Ice Ad Revenue

Dunkin’ will also launch a new activation around the league deal ahead of next season, Manchester said, declining to comment further as those plans have only just started.

“Over these last two years, the idea that coffee and espresso is a big part of the hockey world and hockey family’s lives has only been reinforced for us,” Manchester said.

Dunkin’s NHL deal also serves as “the centerpiece” of that outreach to hockey families, Manchester said.

In addition to its league-level NHL deal in 2017, Dunkin’ has also made additional investments into hockey, signing a deal with USA Hockey in 2016 as well as the NWHL in 2015, becoming the women’s league first corporate sponsor.

While both of those deals have since lapsed, Manchester said that on the NWHL front, the company is in talks with the league about renewing it. He noted that Dunkin’ views “women’s hockey as just as important as men’s.”

However, Dunkin’ is not planning on more broadly renewing its partnership with the U.S. governing body. Manchester said that while Dunkin’ had activated heavily around the U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team and players like Meghan Duggan during the 2018 Winter Olympics, it had nothing in place with USA Hockey at the moment – although he said Dunkin’ could potentially do something around the team or its players heading into the next Olympic cycle in 2022.

Both Dobson and Manchester declined to comment on the financial terms of the deal, other to say the multi-year deal’s investment level is in line with the previous deal. Fenway Sports Management, who is Dunkin’s sports marketing agency of record, negotiated the deal on behalf of the company.

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Concacaf Unveils First-Ever Women’s Soccer Plan

In August, Concacaf appointed its first-ever head of women’s football – former Canadian women’s national team player Karina LeBlanc.

Ian Thomas

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Photo Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of the start of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Concacaf has rolled out its first-ever strategic plan to grow and develop the game of women’s soccer.

In August, the confederation appointed its first-ever head of women’s football – former Canadian women’s national team player Karina LeBlanc.

LeBlanc, who presented the plan in Paris this week to all confederation’s 41 members that includes all of the soccer federations across North and Central America and the Caribbean, said that even with two of the top five ranked women’s soccer teams globally coming from this region in the U.S. and Canadian national teams, there is still an opportunity to do even better.

“The mission we’ve set out on is to improve the lives of women and girls throughout our region through the sport,” LeBlanc said. “We need to change perceptions, grow participation and build a sustainable foundation so that we can do just that.”

Concacaf has designed its strategy to grow the sport of women’s soccer around three main pillars – communicating the importance of women’s soccer and advocating for key issues affecting women, development of the sport and creating pathways to develop and empower players both on and off the field, and through commercial means that will build a self-sustainable growth model for the sport.

LeBlanc said Concacaf’s vision for growing the game somewhat mirrors FIFA’s, who launched its own first-ever global strategy for women’s soccer in October. FIFA is holding a two-day women’s soccer summit in Paris, featuring executives and federation officials from across the globe aiming to “make the most of this new era of women’s football,” which FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in his opening remarks at the summit on Wednesday morning.

Other goals for 2019 set by Concacaf include leveraging the hopeful success of the region’s national teams at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, creating a women’s coaching mentorship program and develop a commercial strategy around the confederation’s women’s soccer brand, which is called Concacaf W.

“We believe we can hit some of these targets very quickly, but it was important to create something like this plan so that everyone is on the same page,” LeBlanc said. “We all agree it is critical that we create growth and opportunity for women in the sport.”

LeBlanc said some of the long term goals include creating new women’s soccer competitions across the region, assisting in the creation of women’s soccer-specific digital and social channels for all the federations to help inspire fans, and encouraging the launch of more women’s clubs across the region.

READ MORE: Budweiser Signs On as Presenting Partner of Women’s International Champions Cup

“From our standpoint, we are looking at ways to influence clubs to take a leap of faith and if they already have a men’s team, to also have a women’s team,” LeBlanc said. “Our goal is to change the mindset that women’s football is just a cause.

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MLSPA and REP Worldwide Teaming Up to Promote MLS Players

The Major League Soccer Players Association has taken back control of the MLS players’ group licensing rights from the league, signing a new agreement with REP Worldwide to serve as the exclusive partner and strategic advisor for those rights.

Ian Thomas

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Photo Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Major League Soccer Players Association has taken back control of the MLS players’ group licensing rights from the league, according to industry sources, signing a new agreement with REP Worldwide to serve as the exclusive partner and strategic advisor for those rights.

The PA had reclaimed those group licensing rights in the league’s first CBA in 2004, but had since licensed them back directly to the league. In the past, MLS has marketed the rights for both the league and the PA, with proceeds of licensing deals split on a percentage basis that varied by category. Now – the PA will take a more direct management in the marketing and administration of those rights, with REP Worldwide as its exclusive partner and advisor.

REP Worldwide – an acronym for Representing Every Player – was launched in 2017 as a first-of-its-kind group licensing representation business offering licensing and brand management services to athlete-driven sports properties. The NFLPA is the majority shareholder of the company, working in collaboration with its founding partners the U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association (USWNTPA) and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA).

This new partnership will see REP Worldwide structure and manage MLSPA licensing partnerships on behalf of the MLS player pool across categories that include digital, apparel, experiential and hard goods, which typically includes things like toys and sports equipment. those MLS group licensing rights cover instances where four or more players appear on a single product or within a brand or product line. That can include the usage of their names, numbers and likenesses, but not team names or logos – rights held by the league.

READ MORE: Budweiser Signs On as Presenting Partner of Women’s International Champions Cup

The aim for the MLSPA is that this new arrangement will not only open new revenue for the MLS player pool, but also serve as a brand builder for all of the players, collectively and individually.

All of the other player associations in the major North American professional sports have control over their group licensing rights, with the NBPA being the last to do so in 2017.

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