And for the first time, spirits brands can use NFL team logos, says a new report.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated May 31, 2019
Boston Globe/Getty Images

As anyone who has ever watched an NFL game in person or on television can tell you, beer brands are one of football’s biggest advertisers. In fact, according to 2019 research from IEG, beer brands spent more money sponsoring the NFL than any other industry. And yet, due to their intoxicating nature, beer and other alcohol brands also face a sizeable amount of restrictions on how those ads can be prevented. But according to a report this week from Morning Consult, those rules are being loosened for 2019, and if true, one major change is on the horizon: Beer brands will be allowed to use active NFL players.

Citing “a league email” and “league sources,” Morning Consult revealed a number of significant policy changes for beer, wine, and spirits. Based on the aforementioned size of beer industry spending, those changes will likely be the most obvious, potentially having a big impact on the advertising for Bud Light, which is the NFL’s official beer sponsor. Bud Light and other team sponsors will now be able to use active player’s images, though how they can be used is reportedly still tightly controlled: For instance, if one active player is to be used, he must be shown in uniform in licensed Associated Press action shots and cannot be implied to be endorsing the product; and if multiple players are to be used, a minimum of six players have to be shown together.

Though the NFL has apparently yet to comment, Anheuser-Busch confirmed the changes to AdAge yesterday. “With the NFL’s recent announcement, we now have rights to partner with active players in the three biggest leagues in the U.S.,” Marcel Marcondes, the company’s chief marketing officer, was quoted as saying. “Through these agreements A-B brands have the opportunity to connect with fans in new ways and to not just highlight these players as great athletes, but more importantly, as great people. This is a win for fans, the league and its players as well as the sponsors.”

Speaking of the players, this new deal could prove lucrative for them too: Morning Consult suggests that a group licensing fee will be paid for large shots while individuals will get their own deals. Meanwhile, teams can benefit too: Beer brands will have to sign a deal with a respective organization to use their players.

And beer isn’t the only booze that will see fewer restrictions. Spirit and wine brands can now reportedly sign deals to be “official” team partners. And apparently, for the first time, liquor brands will be able to use team logos; wine brands will be able to do the same, whereas previously, to use a logo, the wine bottle had to be commemorative.

The new policy is apparently set to “continue indefinitely,” though with regular reviews from NFL brass. But with the way things have been trending, it would seem likely that, if anything were to change in the years ahead, the rules would simply continue to get looser from here.