January 6, 2011: With the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl XLV fast approaching, one of football's most visible and active partners is undergoing changes within its marketing department.
Keith Levy, vp-marketing for Anheuser-Busch, is leaving the company effective Jan. 6 "to pursue other opportunities," according to a statement from Dave Peacock, president of Anheuser-Busch's U.S. division. "We thank Keith for his contributions to our company and wish him the best in his next endeavors."
Frank Abenante, global vp-brands and insights for the company, will "temporarily oversee marketing efforts" in the U.S. as a search for Levy's permanent replacement is conducted. "The leadership of our marketing is key to our growth and to exceeding our consumers' expectations," said Peacock.
Levy joined Anheuser-Busch in 1987 and was named vp-marketing in October 2008 when Peacock was promoted from vp-marketing to president of Anheuser-Busch as part of InBev’s $52 billion takeover of the St. Louis-based beer company.
Anheuser-Busch next season becomes the official beer of the NFL, replacing Coors, which has had category exclusivity since 2002. Anheuser-Busch plans to run numerous ads during the NFL playoffs beginning Jan. 8 and currently has category exclusivity during broadcasts of the Super Bowl through 2012. During Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6, which will be on Fox, Anheuser-Busch is expected to air about 5-6 minutes worth of commercials.
In addition, Anheuser-Busch has individual deals with a majority of NFL teams. Budweiser is the official beer partner of the NBA. Last month, Anheuser-Busch and Major League Baseball extended their official category alliance via a multi-year deal, which had been preceded by threats of litigation from both sides related to the renewal. Anheuser-Busch also has marketing deals with 26 of MLB's 30 teams, according to the company.
"The leadership of our marketing is key to our growth and to exceeding our consumers' expectations." — Dave Peacock, President, Anheuser-Busch
The marketing makeover comes at a time of challenged sales for Bud and Bud Light, according to industry analysts. In 2009, which was the first full year after the InBev takeover, Bud Light recorded its first sales volume decline in nearly 20 years.
When Anheuser-Busch signed the deal with the NFL this past May, Peacock extolled the virtues of the alliance.
"This gives Bud Light real ownership of professional football within the beer category, and expands on our existing connections to NFL fans through sponsorship of 28 teams, our continued substantial advertising presence in the regular season and playoff broadcasts and our Super Bowl advertising exclusivity that has been in place 22 consecutive years,” Peacock said in a statement. “We continue to invest in the things that support our brands, and our efforts to manage costs enable us to seize opportunities like this one. We look forward to leveraging this investment to connect our Bud Light brand more deeply with NFL fans.”