What does it mean to be the “official beer of esports?” Not much. Yet.
Still, Anheuser-Busch may be able to officially claim that title after filing a trademark request last week. Unlike spendy sponsorships to become the official beer of a major sports league, the wide open esports scene only required an opportunistic filing.
No beer company can become the “official beer of sports” due to the breadth of that claim, but apparently, the digital playing field was wide open. Individual esports leagues like Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League already had a deal in place with Bud Light for the AB In-Bev product to be the league’s official beer.
Bud Light is happily expanding into esports as the company also owns the rights to be the official beer of the NFL until 2022, a title that reportedly cost them $1.4 billion. That’s the beauty of this trademark filing, it was easy to do and absurdly cheap.
“The sport is so fractured,” said Nick Kelly, the head of U.S. sports marketing at Anheuser-Busch in an interview with Sports Business Journal. “It’s not like the NFL. I could never be the official beer of the NFL without doing a deal with them. But no one owns esports, so it’s an opportunity for us to come in there and create a space that we can play in that transcends everything from Call of Duty to Fortnite, the [NBA] 2K League or Overwatch League.”
Kelly went on to say that the company plans to use the phrase in advertising and potentially at retail. Nothing official has been announced so, for now, this remains a slogan in the deep pockets of the biggest beer company in the world.
If they do begin to use the slogan, they can expect pushback from esports loyalists. In general, many fans of esports aren’t as used to brand presence around their favorite game as a traditional sports fan may be. While these audiences are beginning to accept brands more, the intense focus on the space in the past two years has made many people wary of new advertisers.
Luckily for Anheuser-Busch, they aren’t a new advertiser. Bud Light made a splash in the esports world back in 2016 when they announced the “Bud Light All-Stars” series. While panned by critics at the time, their choices for all-stars may have come through a crystal ball.
Only one of those five Twitter accounts remains attached to the correct person just three years later. But the fourth face in that lineup may still be familiar to even the most esports-illiterate: Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, the Fortnite superstar who has appeared in a Super Bowl ad, on the cover of ESPN the magazine and was a guest on Ellen.
That was over a year before Fortnite was released when Ninja was a Halo player and could have never imagined that he would be the most prominent gaming personality in the world in just a couple of years.
So for Bud Light, this phrase may come under fire from the esports community, but the company’s past history in the space and the risk-free nature of this trademark make it a potentially winning move.