Olympic beer sponsor bets big on non-alcoholic trend

The world’s biggest brewer is hoping that their newest sponsorship deal will capture sports fans who may be considering extending their Dry January’s.

What happened: Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev has signed a deal with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to become the first-ever global beer sponsor for the next three Olympic games, a platform the company will use to pump the tires on a non-alcoholic beer.  

  • AB InBev will make its non-alcoholic Corona Cero the official beer of the Summer Games in Paris this summer (which, fittingly, will be mostly booze-free), for Milan in 2026, and for what’s seen as the prize of the deal: the Los Angeles Games in 2028.

  • While the value of the pact wasn’t disclosed, IOC sponsors have reportedly paid upwards of US$300 million for just a four-year commercial cycle in the past. 

Why it matters: Sales of non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits are already growing faster than their boozy counterparts, and the fact that a long-term global beer sponsorship deal of this value is being used to promote a non-alcoholic product speaks to the industry’s belief that this is just the beginning of what could be a major consumer shift towards the not-so-hard stuff. 

  • Between 2018 and 2023, sales of non-alcoholic drinks in the top 10 markets grew by 70%, while sales of alcoholic drinks in those same markets grew by just 14%.

  • The same analysis forecasted that sales of no and low-alcohol products in major markets will grow by another 31% this year. 

Bottom line: As advertisers have seen in years past, pouring money into pricey Olympic sponsorship doesn’t always pay off, but connecting a non-alcoholic product — something many consumers have picked up for health and fitness reasons — with the best athletes in the world seems like a deliberate calculation that AB InBev believes is worthwhile.—LA