Beer, Wine & Spirits

Bud Light, Corona welcome Rams back to L.A. with beer, hoping fans will follow

Source: Constellation Brands

After 22 years, an NFL team is once again ready to call Los Angeles home.

As the Rams prepare to hit the field Monday Night against the San Francisco 49ers for their regular season opener, the battle to win the dollars of L.A. area beer drinkers is already underway.

Anheuser Busch-InBev owned Bud Light, is the official beer sponsor of the NFL on a national level, and sponsors 28 out of 32 individual NFL teams locally. Given those relationships, the chance to partner with the Rams—newly relocated from St. Louis—was too important to pass up.

"Traditionally we've been a little bit hamstrung because we didn't have an NFL team there and we didn't have the chance to activate around any single team" said Nick Kelly, director of experiential marketing at Anheuser-Busch.

"The LA beer market for us is critical. At the end of the day this will be a true test to the value and power of the NFL shield if it can help us win at retail in Los Angeles," he added.

Based on past experience, Bud Light executives have to feel pretty good about the brand's chances. After rolling out limited-edition, team-branded cans for the first time last year, the company saw sales of Bud Light in those markets rise by nearly four percent.

"We were surprised on the lift last year on the team cans." said Kelly. "It was so well received at retail and amongst our wholesale network that his year we produced six times more cans year over year."

The team specific cans do away with the normal Bud Light blue: In its place are cans decked out in team colors adorned with the team logo.

In addition to boosting the number of team branded cans put into the market, Bud Light is looking to expand the campaign's reach by building team specific marketing campaigns built around slogans such as "The Only Undefeated Can," in Miami; "The Can With Six Rings" in Pittsburgh, or "You've Been Waiting 22 years for This Can" in L.A.

"The biggest thing for us really is that localization," Kelly added. "It shows that Bud Light has a place at the table with what needs to be in your tailgate kit or your at home experience."

Bud Light isn't the only brand looking to win over beer drinkers in the City of Angels by tapping into local pride surrounding the NFL's return.

Constellation Brands' Corona Extra struck a deal to become the "Official Cerveza of the Los Angeles Rams," a partnership that gives it exclusivity in the imported beer category.

Corona Extra marketing executives see NFL game day as a logical extension to the brands well known "Find Your Beach" campaign.

"With L.A. being one of the largest beer markets in the country, it's crucial that we find opportunities in Los Angeles that resonate around key moments and occasions that matter to our consumers" said John Alvarado, vice president of marketing for Corona Extra.

"For so many of our consumers, watching football is their 'beach,' so whether they're at home or watching at a bar, the entire Sunday experience is something we want to be a part of," he continued.

A key component to the sponsorship is the introduction to the L.A. market of Corona Extra on draft.

Corona Extra remains a bright spot in the beer industry, with volume sales up 12 percent in 2015 according to Chicago-based market research firm IRI. However, Constellation sees draft sales of Corona Extra as an untapped growth opportunity.

While Constellation has taken a cautious approach to Corona Extra on draft, so as not to cannibalize sales of its iconic bottles, company executives see a rare chance to capitalize with the return of football to Los Angeles.

Source: Constellation Brands

"Our roll out of Corona Extra on draft has been strategic, and until now we've only been in a few test markets" said Alvarado. "Being able to introduce great Rams-themed glassware, branded packages, retail promotions and other experiences in LA, made it the perfect market for the draft roll out."

For Anheuser-Busch, the partnership with the Rams provides an opportunity to compare pre-sponsorship Bud Light sales numbers from 2015 against the team branded campaign for the same time period in 2016.

"This is the one market where it's the rare occasion where we have a blank slate," said Kelly.

"We haven't gone into a new market like this with a team partner in decades so we don't really know what the true impact is going to be," he added. "So we're looking forward to seeing what kind of real value we're driving in LA."