- The NFL has named Diageo as its first official spirits sponsor through a multiyear pact that encompasses in-person fan activations as well as broadcast, digital and social content, according to an announcement. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
- The partnership kicks off for the 2022 season, with year one spotlighting brands including Smirnoff Vodka, Crown Royal Canadian Whisky and Captain Morgan Spiced Rum. The latter will serve as presenting sponsor for the league's Fan of the Year contest that offers the chance for a winner to be honored at Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles.
- Diageo currently has 12 NFL team and stadium deals, making the sponsorship agreement a "natural progression" of its marketing around the league, per the release. Its Crown Royal brand was also the first spirits brand to run a commercial during a televised NFL game in 2017 after the sports organization changed its advertising policies.
The NFL considerably broadens its marketing tent by bringing Diageo on as its first official spirits sponsor. While the pact marks an historic occasion for the league, which has been slow to embrace spirits, Diageo for years has been angling for new ways to reach football fans as consumer tastes diversify beyond beer.
Crown Royal has factored most prominently into this strategy, including by running the first commercial from a spirits brand during an NFL TV broadcast. Four years ago, it introduced a "Water Break" campaign that encouraged staying hydrated and drinking in moderation, with a referee directing bar patrons to take a break while watching a game.
Even as the NFL has opened up a steadier drip of spirits marketing, the league has upheld some tight restrictions. Airtime for spirits advertising has been limited to no more than four 30-second spots per game, and no more than two spots running during any quarter or halftime. The league has also insisted that messaging not feature football elements and must promote a "prominent social responsibility message," a theme that carries over to the new Diageo deal.
"We are energized about bringing new and exciting programs and experiences to the NFL's passionate adult fan base, while continuing to use our platform to champion social responsibility in every way," Ed Pilkington, chief marketing and innovation officer of Diageo North America, said in a press statement.
As part of the agreement, Smirnoff, Captain Morgan and Crown Royal will collaborate with the league on its Responsible Drinking program. The tie-up at the same time significantly expands Diageo's presence at marquee events and activations, including the NFL Honors and Fan of the Year contest. Diageo will also be involved in the NFL International Series in London, where the beverage company is headquartered.
Regarding alcoholic beverages, the NFL is perhaps best known for its relationship with AB InBev, the marketer of beers like Budweiser and Bud Light. AB InBev holds exclusive rights to advertise alcoholic beverages during the Super Bowl, though that hasn't stopped spirits marketers from trying to get in on the action through tactics like regional or post-game ad buys.