The UFC’s recent announcement of a partnership with Anheuser-Busch, making Bud Light its official beer, marks a significant turning point in the world of sports sponsorship.
This move follows months of controversy and backlash against Bud Light, yet it signifies a strong alignment in core values and a commitment to community impact according to both UFC and Anheuser-Busch leadership.
Over fifteen years ago, Bud Light was UFC’s original beer sponsor, and this new multiyear deal brings these two giants back together. The deal involves Bud Light’s heavy presence in UFC’s broadcasts and online content starting in 2024.
UFC CEO Dana White expressed his enthusiasm, stating, “Anheuser-Busch and Bud Light were UFC’s original beer sponsors more than fifteen years ago. I’m proud to announce we are back in business together.”
White emphasized the alignment of core values between UFC and Anheuser-Busch as a critical factor in his decision to partner with them. “There are many reasons why I chose to go with Anheuser-Busch and Bud Light, most importantly because I feel we are very aligned when it comes to our core values and what the UFC brand stands for,” he stated.
He expressed his anticipation for the incredible collaborations they would undertake in the coming years, highlighting the positive impact and celebration of their shared passionate fanbase.
Anheuser-Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth echoed White’s sentiments, pointing out the legacy of Anheuser-Busch and Bud Light in being at the forefront of iconic sporting moments. “As one of the largest and longest standing sport sponsors, we are excited to work with UFC to celebrate our passionate fans while always making a positive impact in communities across America,” Whitworth stated.
Replacing Modelo as the UFC’s official beer partner, Bud Light’s partnership with UFC is about more than just financial gain, according to White. He highlighted Anheuser-Busch’s commitment to employment, particularly of veterans, and its substantial investments in U.S. agriculture.
“These guys employ 65,000 Americans, thousands of vets they employ. They spend over $700 million a year with U.S. farmers,” White pointed out, underscoring his alignment with the company’s values.
White acknowledged the past backlash against Bud Light, stating that fans “might not love” every business decision made by UFC or Anheuser-Busch.
However, he insisted that aligning with core values was paramount and that the decision to partner was not a difficult one. “This is more about core values to me than anything else,” White added.
Bud Light faced major backlash last spring when it partnered with transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney for an Instagram ad about March Madness. The fallout led to plummeting sales for several months, exacerbated by comments from Alissa Heinerscheid, vice president of marketing at Bud Light, who critiqued the brand’s past advertising as “fratty” and “out of touch.”
Beer Business Daily publisher Harry Schuhmacher described the damage to Bud Light’s brand as “quasi-permanent,” stating that longtime consumers “are just lost forever.”
Despite the intense backlash, not all of Bud Light’s former fans have abandoned the brand.
Kid Rock, who went viral for a video of him aggressively dismissing Bud Light, was later spotted drinking the beer at an event in August, suggesting that there may still be room for reconciliation and rebuilding of trust.
The UFC’s partnership with Anheuser-Busch, bringing Bud Light back as its official beer, is a strategic move rooted in shared values and a commitment to community impact.
Despite the controversy and backlash against Bud Light, UFC’s leadership sees this partnership as an alignment of core values and a positive step forward.
As these two giants reunite, the sports world watches to see how this partnership will unfold and what it will bring for the passionate fans and communities they serve.