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
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.
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.
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.
Co-Branded Content has evolved over the last few years, and beer brands have been at the forefront of these collaborations. In 2021, 8% of all deals having co-branded content were from Alcohol brands, the top brands being Bud Light, Michelob Ultra & Heineken. In 2020 during the pandemic, the number of co-branded content deals more than doubled from 2019. The rise continued in 2021 with close to 500 brands collaborating on co-branded content, and so far in 2022 over 300 brands have utilized this asset. Only 3 months into 2022, will this number break over 1k come year end?
Michelob Ultra, the Official Beer of the NBA, teamed up with 18 teams across the league for limited-edition NBA cans. Bud Light, the Official Beer of the NFL, keyed in on 29 NFL athletes’ social media channels to show off team packaging for 27 teams ahead of the 2021-22 NFL season. Over 45 Alcohol brands partnered with organizations while more than five Esports teams joined forces with Alcohol brands creating content. adidas and Puma are the two leading brands with Co-Branded content across all properties. Many of these deals with properties come internationally within the Premier League, La Liga 2 and the European Basketball League.
Over 370 properties have begun to create co-branded content in 2022. The opportunity to create unique products, experiences or limited-edition merchandise for fans is vast. 2022 is setting up to be the biggest year yet for brands and properties taking advantage of the uniqueness and fandom that co-branded content creates.
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.