- The National Football League (NFL) has come out with new guidelines for alcohol sponsorship that now lets teams' and players' likeness be used in ads, according to a report by Morning Consult. This new policy — which lets beer brands use images of players in their marketing — will be tested over several years, with annual re-evaluation.
- There are some limitations for the new policy, which also covers distilled spirits and wine. Only active players can participate in such marketing, there can't be any implication of an actual product endorsement, and, if more than one player's likeness is used, the ad must include at least six players.
- Any such use of player likenesses must include a sponsorship deal with that player's team, according to the new policy. Creative by beer makers must employ licensed Associated Press action shots of players in uniform. The new policy covers Anheuser-Busch InBev's Bud Light, which is the official beer of the NFL, as well as other brands who have or wish to have sponsorship relationships with individual teams.
Professional sports leagues have been hesitant to connect alcohol consumption with athletic ability because of pressure from federal alcohol regulators, but this NFL move is the latest relaxing of the rules.
The pressure to change the rules comes from the football league's need to find new sources of advertising revenue, following a three-year drop in TV ratings that began in 2015. For well-known beer brands like Budweiser and Bud Light, which have experienced their own slides in popularity, the challenge has been to generate interest based on cultural experiences like sports events, given that major beer brands don't need more name visibility.
The reported changes to advertising rules follows previous efforts to loosen rules related to alcohol. In 2017, the NFL started allowing distilled spirits brands to advertise during games. Previously, such advertising had been banned.
The NFL's easing also follows relaxation on alcohol-related ads by players in Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association last fall. While the NFL has had rules prohibiting active players in beer ads, the NBA and MLB have not had such rules, although in practice this kind of marketing had not been frequently practiced, according to Ad Age.
To get around the previous prohibition on the use of active players in alcohol marketing, the NFL has used inactive or retired players, or players in ancillary campaigns. Canadian whisky brand Crown Royal last year partnered with four former NFL players to promote water drinking between alcohol beverages, encouraging responsible game-day alcohol consumption through hydration and moderation.