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Bud Light to be official beer sponsor

5/4/2010 - NFL

NEW YORK -- Anheuser-Busch's flagship brand Bud Light will be the official beer sponsor of the National Football League, edging out rival MillerCoors, which said Tuesday it wouldn't renew its deal.

Anheuser-Busch's six-year deal, which begins in the 2011 season, is worth more than $1 billion, a person close to the league said Tuesday.

The person -- who is familiar with the negotiations but requested anonymity because the deal is confidential -- said the amount is double what MillerCoors had paid for its last six-year contract. The Coors Light sponsorship ends after this season.

"We continue to invest in the things that support our brands, and our efforts to manage costs enable us to seize opportunities like this one," said Dave Peacock, president of Anheuser-Busch Inc., the St. Louis-based unit of Anheuser-Busch InBev.

When the brewer was bought by InBev, a Belgian company known for its cost-cutting, analysts wondered if that would hurt Anheuser-Busch's marketing budget, which has typically been a major force in the sporting world and advertising industry.

Bud Light was a beer sponsor of the NFL from 1990 to 2001, though it also shared the sponsorship during that time with Miller.

Anheuser-Busch's commercials are often synonymous with football's biggest game, the Super Bowl. The company holds exclusive alcohol advertising rights for the game, stretching back 22 years, Peacock said in a written statement.

MillerCoors' Coors Light sponsorship dates to 2002, which is when the NFL beer sponsorship became exclusive.

MillerCoors CEO Leo Kiely said the company made an offer that expired at midnight Monday, but it wasn't accepted. The company told distributors in a memo it couldn't reach an agreement with the NFL over the value of the sponsorship.

"NFL is great property. We're not running away from the NFL. We have tremendous advertising commitments there. We'll continue to," he told investors on a conference call to discuss the company's first-quarter results.

MillerCoors still plans to maintain deals with individual teams but now it has a "significant amount" of money that it can spend elsewhere, he said.

The company won't disclose how much it paid for the sponsorship.

Anheuser-Busch said the sponsorship means it can use NFL logos and trademarks, such as the NFL shield logo and events such as the Super Bowl, in its advertising and marketing.