Breweries pour millions of dollars into soccer in the United States every year. From multinational brewing companies to local craft brewers, there is enough room for each to provide a buzz. But none of it would be possible without the Cullen-Harrison Act being enacted on April 7, 1933.
The Cullen-Harrison Act was signed by President Franklin D Roosevelt on March 22 of that year and enacted a few weeks later on April 7 that allowed beer to be brewed, sold, and drunk ending Prohibition.
April 7 has become known as National Beer Day in the U.S. and Soccer365 looks at how beer has played a part in soccer over the years. Cheers.
The longest running beer sponsorship in the U.S. is between the U.S. Soccer Federation and Budweiser. US Soccer and Budweiser signed their first partnership agreement in 1986 and it has been going strong ever since. Budweiser, now part of Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, signed a 4-year extension with US Soccer in 2015.
Anheuser-Busch InBev NV also sponsors the Mexican national team but that is limited to the U.S. market. The goal is to reach the growing number of Hispanics in the U.S. and targets the increase in the number of friendlies El Tri Colores host in the U.S.
Anheuser-Busch InBev NV is a FIFA World Cup sponsor (they have been a sponsor at every FIFA World Cup since 1986) as well as a sponsor of the Argentinean, Brazilain, Ukranian, and Belgian national teams.
Budweiser played a similar role with Major League Soccer. The brewer signed on as a major sponsor of the league in its inaugural season in 1996 and continued to be a major sponsor of the league through 2014.
Dutch beer brewer, Heineken, saw what Budweister knew all along…that the U.S. market was a great demographic to tap. This has only increased over the last few as a larger percentage of the league’s fan base is composed of the highly sought after millennials.
Heineken announced a five-year deal, reportedly worth $50 million, as the official beer of Major League Soccer staring in 2015.
In addition to the league-wide deal, Heineken signed 7 clubs, DC United, Chicago Fire, Columbus Crew, Houston Dynamo, Orlando City SC, New York Red Bulls and New York City FC, to individual deals. Budweiser still has a reach to the MLS market through sponsorships with individual clubs as well.
The big boys aren’t the only ones at the bar, however. The growing market of millennials are increasingly expanding their tastes which has allowed for craft brewers to enter the soccer sponsorship field in the U.S.
And there are some interesting craft brewing sponsors that have used the beautiful game to sell beer over the last decade. For the most part, these are local connections with the brewery based in or nearby the MLS club. The sponsorships usually featured craft beer availability in the stadium as well as some marketing in association with the clubs but some were more extensive. Some of the sponsorships continue today while others have run dry.
Sporting Kansas City signed a 5-year deal with Boulevard Brewing Company in 2013. Boulevard Brewing Company is one of the largest specialty brewers in the Midwest. They are the title sponsor the Boulevard Members’ Club.
“This has been in the works for a long time,” said Jeremy Ragonese, Boulevard’s Director of Marketing. “Our mutual fans have been outspoken in their support for an alliance between Boulevard and Sporting KC, and their passion for our brands makes this a natural fit.”
Real Salt Lake signed a deal with Uinta Brewing making it the ‘official craft beer of RSL’ earlier this year. The sponsorship allows Uinta Beer to be served at every concession stand at Rio Tinto Stadium and community outreach partnerships in association with the club and their fan base.
The Philadelphia Union took to neighboring state Delaware for their ‘local’ brewery. The MLS club signed a deal with Dogfish Head Brewery in 2015. The deal included a beer garden at PPL Park and in-stadium branding.
“We are thrilled to welcome Dogfish Head Brewery,” said Philadelphia Union CEO and operating partner Nick Sakiewicz. “On behalf of the entire organization, we pledge our continued commitment to forming world-class partnerships strategically designed to deliver exceptional value with companies and brands that authentically resonate with the best fans in all of soccer.”
Portland, Oregon is known by many as ‘Soccer City, USA’ but with the fans love of beer it could equally be referred to as ‘Beer City, USA.’ The connection between beer and soccer was not missed by Widmer Brothers Brewing. The local brewer was a ‘Founding Partner’ for the Timbers’ inaugural MLS season in 2011. They don’t only bring their regular beers to the fans but have made specialty batches just for the Timbers.
They brewed a specialty batch after Timbers won their first MLS Cup in 2015. The First Star batch was in reference to the star added to the club jersey with their MLS Cup win. It was made in collaboration with Head Coach Caleb Porter and the Portland Timbers coaching.
Ahead of the MLS Cup match against the Columbus Crew that year, in conjunction with Columbus Brewing they made Thrill of Victory Cascadian Dark Ale, which is the promised collaboration with Columbus Brewing that came about after a bet between the two breweries before last year’s MLS Championship game between the Timbers and the Columbus Crew
And other local brewers see the potential with these specialty brews, even if they are not an official partner. Hopworks Urban Brewery joined up with Timbers defender, Jack Jewsbury, to brew the limited Captain Jack’s Lucky 13 Championship IPA after the MLS Cup run.
California knows a thing or two about craft beer which made the partnership between the San Jose Earthquakes and Gordon Biersch signed in 2015 a no-brainer. The deal has them brewery pouring Marzen, Golden Export and Pilsner and serving Gordon Biersch Marzen, Pilsner and Hefeweizen in aluminum bottles at Avaya Stadium.
“Gordon Biersch has been a great partner for many years,” said Earthquakes President Dave Kaval. “Our fans have enjoyed the many different varieties of Gordon Biersch at our stadium and we are proud to have them be the official craft beer of our club.”
The Colorado Rapids entered into a multi-year partnership with Odell Brewing Company in 2013 and the Seattle Sounders have worked with Redhook Ale Brewery.
The beer connection does not end in the stadium. Some clubs have ‘Bar Partners,’ who show away games on TV and offer deals to fans who come to watch at the bar.
The goal of all these sponsorships is to reach more fans. One brewer has taken the interesting approach of skipping the middle man. Oskar Blues Brewery signed a partnership with U.S. national team supporters’ group, American Outlaws in 2015.
What beer sponsorships have we missed? Tell us how beer touches your soccer life. Leave your comments below.