Bud Light Hearts The NFL: Thoughts On The Bizarro Beer Marketing Partnership


If there’s anything I love more than beer, it’s football.

I’m not talking about the glitz and glimmer of the NFL and I’m sure as hell not talking about the fizzy swill that is Bud Light. I’m talking good local craft beer coupled with good ole’ American college football.

There’s something about the college game that seems so genuine to me. When I was younger I remember thinking how one day I’m going to go to college and be in the student section every Saturday cheering on my team … how awesome the tailgates would be … cheerleaders … all the beer I could drink …. cheerleaders … it was going to be great!

SUNY College at Brockport.

SUNY College at Brockport.

When the time came, however, my alma mater proved to be nothing like the Division-I programs I watched with my father but that didn’t kill my love for the sport. And even though the College at Brockport didn’t have an insane student section cheering on a dominate team, the football culture was still strong among those who cared, leaving me with a greater sense of community by the time I graduated.

Also by the time I had graduated, I was very much into craft beer. With Brockport being right outside of Rochester, NY, I had access to a great beer culture and even greater local brews. I was able to enjoy fresh-from-the-brewery beers from the likes of Three Heads, Roc Brewing Co. and Stoneyard Brewing Co. without having to go more than a few miles from my college apartment. Those aren’t leviathans in the beer world by any means but that sense of being a part of something local was really important to me and revealed itself to be even more important when I moved away from my college town to begin my “adult” life.

This sense of community is something that has stayed with me as I’ve meandered through the early stages of said “adult life.” I still feel kinship to the Golden Eagles and to the breweries of the Rochester-area and having been a part of both is a point of pride for me, for whatever reason.

This strong, near-familial, bond I have between local beer and my alma mater was tickled this year, however, when I saw  ABInBev was releasing NFL branded cans of Bud Light. My first reaction was, as a Cleveland Browns fan living in northern New York, “Well … looks like I’m not going to be seeing any brown and orange cans!” But as I sat and thought about it a little longer and I saw the ads over and over again and walked past the WalMart displays time and time again, it began to annoy me.

Eventually I recognized the beef came from the same place in my person that houses the sense of community I have for Brockport and Rochester beer. How dare they!? Why does this Belgian conglomerate have to mettle with American football in such a targeted and personal way?

This is just another example of the cold and callous machine that is corporate beer. Macro finding a natural bedfellow with the cold and callous machine that is the National Football League just makes sense. With corporate beer, the spontaneity and exploration of craft brewing gets smothered by the weight of a multinational corporation much like the unadulterated love and passion  seen in the college game is transformed into injury statistics and signing bonuses by the NFL.

The saddest part, though? It works.

For decades now, professional sports and corporate beer have been thick as thieves. For as long as I can remember, Bud Light has been the official beer of the NFL and any of my trips to Orchard Park for Buffalo Bills games have always enforced that relationship. It’s a heartless business venture in a setting that could do wonders for local breweries in any of the 32 communities inhabited by an NFL franchise.

Thankfully, my love, college football, is providing a glimmer of hope. Although it’s only happening in a very small sliver of the college football world, universities are pairing up with local breweries to  produce beers reflexive of the community served by both the university and brewery.


Photo courtesy of Tin Roof Brewing.

Most notably is Louisiana State University which has teamed up with Tin Roof Brewing Company to produce Bayou Bengal, an American Light Lager sold in LSU branded cans, packaged in LSU branded boxes, sold to LSU fans and consumed while cheering on the LSU Tiger. It’s beautiful!

It’s not just LSU either, fellow Louisianians UL-Lafayette have teamed up with Bayou Teche Brewing to produce Ragin’ Cajuns, a kolsch styled to reflect the rich heritage of Louisiana’s creole country.

As I read about these beers and see the local color starting to absorb it, I can’t help but hope that one day, Brockport will team up with the local rockstars at Stoneyard Brewing Co. and create a Golden Eagle Wheat or a Bob Boozer Bourbon Barrel Stout for the beer-loving student body to enjoy.

Comparing these local efforts to efforts of AB InBev and the NFL brings about a sad side of the tale, though. Imagine what a major endorsement from an NFL franchise would do for a local craft brewery? When I think of Browns games or Bills games, I try to imagine what it would be like for FirstEnergy Stadium to be wrapped in banners for Great Lakes Brewing Co. or for New Era Stadium to be decked out in ads for Big Ditch Brewing Company or Flying Bison Brewing Company.

It would be glorious!

Gone would be the days where the edges of your television screen are invaded by Bud Light logos, and the ad breaks would be dedicated to promoting locally sourced and locally produced libations instead of AB InBev slots that belittle and marginalize the craft beer culture, despite the corporation rapidly gobbling up as many craft outfits as it can.

Sadly, that day will probably never come. I will most likely be forced to see Bud and Bud Light advertising during Browns games and the juxtaposition of the Browns logo with crap beer branding until the day I die…or until the day they mercy kill the Cleveland pro football franchise…again.

I will — however delusional it may be — hold out hope that — if not Brockport — Notre Dame will team up with a local brewery and put out a product that fans, students, alumni, etc. can all enjoy and be proud to call their own.

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Born and raised in Northern New York and schooled at the College at Brockport, SUNY. Journalist by trade, beer lover by ... well, life.

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