With most football events having been disrupted this year, commercial partners have had to take a creative approach to maintaining engagement with sports fans.
LaLiga Global Partner Budweiser has a relationship with sports that stretches over 30 years, becoming synonymous with high-profile events and social gatherings and creating activations that build a lasting connection with its audiences.
Having signed as a LaLiga partner in the summer of 2019, Budweiser has placed a stronger emphasis on digital activations in recent months, continuing to build its global audience through campaigns that celebrate the ‘kings of the game’, in which LaLiga players feature prominently.
“Throughout this partnership, we’ve leveraged the majority of our contractual rights to date by expressing the idea of ‘Be A King’ to ignite voltage throughout the campaign across our global markets” said Eelco Van der Noll, head of partnership marketing at AB InBev, parent company of Budweiser.
“LaLiga helps us bring these campaigns to life through its assets, for example through access to current players, ambassadors, current or archive footage and amplifying our content across LaLiga social channels.”
Adapting to the pandemic
Using such material, Budweiser worked with LaLiga on campaigns that have promoted the competition and built the global following of both brands, focusing on content rather than experiential campaigns.
For Van der Noll, this presents a template that other brands could follow. Rather than waiting for the pandemic to pass and resuming past strategies, he argues that it is time for a re-think across the industry about how campaigns can be re-designed for future success.
“We feel the industry may be overreacting in the short term and under-reacting in the long term,” he explains.
“Understandably all partners are trying to find ways to stay engaged with fans and consumers as the matches are being played without fans. But the question really is, how should we prepare for fan engagement post Covid-19? We will probably not go back to the old normal.”
Creative content approach
In particular, the success that Budweiser has seen through its creative content is likely to inform future decision making.
“We see the majority of engagement through digital & social campaigns,” Van der Noll said. “For example, we recently launched ‘Kings’ Collabs’, matching the world’s greatest players with the hottest up and coming creators to create the ultimate football collectibles for fans.”
A recent example saw Real Madrid player Marcelo meet with the fashion brand NorBlack NorWhite, based in India, producing a short film that explored intimate storytelling with artistic creation.
A similar campaign was created between FC Barcelona’s Marc-André ter Stegen and Chinese fashion brand Sankuanz. In both cases, the content received millions of views worldwide.
“These are great examples of how we’ve leveraged our partnership to help own the football passion point conversation globally within the beer category,” Van der Noll added.
“This concept would not have been as successful without the help of LaLiga and the ability to leverage our contractual rights to conduct exclusive interviews with players and create compelling content shared across both Budweiser and LaLiga channels.”
Global growth using star players
LaLiga’s own global footprint and international reputation helps partner content go further, resulting in an increased profile for both brands in important overseas markets. Van der Noll noted that current activations are taking place in more than 20 markets around the world, with particular interest in LaLiga shown in countries such as Colombia and South Africa.
To push this further, the brand plans to continue promoting the ‘Kings of the Game’, using star players from across LaLiga Santander to create stronger links to the competition.
“Based on the campaigns we’ve run throughout the partnership, fandom has primarily been tied to specific players (kings),” Van der Noll said. “We’ve driven salience to the league association by paralleling the King of Beers with the Kings of the Game.”
Recent activations have included a campaign with Sergio Ramos that tells the players’ story through his tattoos, applying an off-the-pitch focus to drive distinction while using a creative approach that stands out in sports sponsorship.
In coming months, Budweiser’s key focus will be on promoting a new partnership that has been created with Lionel Messi. The new 644 campaign, relating to the record of ‘most goals for a single club’ that Messi is on course to break this season, is designed to celebrate greatness on a global scale and create a unique moment for football fans and consumers alike.
Looking further ahead, although its current formula is proving successful, Budweiser is open to experimentation when it comes to future campaigns and content.
Through consultation with LaLiga, it will continue to prioritise audience needs and long-term engagement, adapting to any new challenges that may arise.
“Innovation is in the blood of AB InBev and Budweiser,” Van der Noll concludes. “We always welcome new ideas and concepts.”