The deal

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has announced a major multi-year partnership with global drink conglomerate Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) covering the next three editions of the Olympics Games – the Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028 summer games, and the 2026 Milano-Cortina winter games.

The deal sees AB InBev become a worldwide Olympic partner, part of the top-tier TOP partner program, which is the highest level of Olympic sponsorship. The partnership represents the IOC’s first TOP partnership with an alcohol brand.

The partnership will be centered around AB InBev’s alcohol-free Corona Cero brand globally, while in the US, its Michelob Ultra Light beer brand will support the Los Angeles event.

Michelob Ultra’s primary position in the US is because the rights to import and sell Corona are held by Constellation Brands, not AB InBev, therefore disqualifying AB InBev from promoting beer in the country.

Through the IOC’s partnership with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), the AB InBev agreement also includes marketing rights for IPC events through 2028.

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Why it matters

The Olympic Games has never globally partnered with a beer brand, mainly due to internal rules against the promotion of unhealthy brands, which is why this new agreement is centered around the non-alcoholic Corona Cero, while Michelob Ultra is a low-calorie beer.

Conrad Wiacek, head of analysis and consulting at Sportcal (GlobalData Sport), said: “The IOC bringing on board a new alcoholic beverages partner in the shape of AB InBev is a prelude to what should shape up to be one of the most commercially successful games in history when the Olympics arrive in LA in 2028.

“With the last LA games having started the commercialization of the Olympics back in 1984, LA2028 should offer a glimpse at the commercial future of the event, especially with the advances in technology expected in the fields of AI ahead of those games.

“AB InBev securing this partnership in its key market to go alongside its deals with the NFL, NBA, and the upcoming FIFA World Cup shows that its focus will be on clawing back lost market share over the next decade, leveraging sporting partnerships to make an impact across North America.

“By utilizing the ‘zero alcohol’ products, this will lean into the health and lifestyle obsession which is synonymous with LA, which in turn will likely lead to several high profile celebrity endorsements which will no doubt be utilized to activate the partnership, marrying sports with entertainment in new and innovative ways. The global reach of the Olympics will no doubt attract plenty of eyeballs globally, allowing AB InBev to develop the partnership in all key markets.”

The detail

Commenting on the new deal, AB InBev chief marketing officer Marcel Marcondes said: “As we continue to invest to grow the category, we are excited to bring our beer brands to the Olympics and be a worldwide partner for these amazing events.

“Corona is one of our fastest-growing global brands, reaching consumers across 180 countries, and through this partnership, we expect Corona Cero to accelerate no-alcohol beer growth.”

The new deal comes after Japanese beverage company Asahi announced it would end its sponsorship of the upcoming Paris Olympic Games, with its brand Pilsner Urquell withdrawing from all sponsorship material due to the IOC choosing to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in the flagship event under a neutral flag.

Pilsner Urquell is the official partner of the Czech Olympic Committee.

At the time, Asahi said: “Pilsner Urquell does not want to support the Olympic Games in Paris under current conditions. It will send money to Czech athletes."

Under French laws, it is illegal to sell or distribute alcohol in stadiums and the organizers of the upcoming Paris Olympics have not applied for an exemption. However, VIP hospitality at events is exempt and alcohol is allowed to be served in those areas.

The announcement has coincided with the news that AB InBev’s Michelob Ultra brand is partnering with the US Olympic Team, also through to 2028.

The other IOC TOP partners are Airbnb, Alibaba, Allianz, Atos, Bridgestone, Coca-Cola, Deloitte, Intel, Omega, Panasonic, P&G, Samsung, Toyota, and Visa.