Reeling from boycott, Bud Light buys UFC sponsorship


One minute Bud Light is celebrating a transgender TikToker’s “365 Days of Womanhood”, the next it’s promoting men beating each other to a pulp for money. 

Still reeling from its brief yet disastrous collaboration with Dylan Mulvaney, the pendulum has apparent swung hard over at the once popular Anheuser-Busch InBev brand.

Effective January, the company behind the low-calorie lager announced that Bud Light will have exclusive rights to become the official beer in the United States of the UFC, the world’s premier organizer of mixed martial arts that boasts such stars as tattooed Irish brawler Conor McGregor. 

“UFC has become an undeniable force in the sports industry, and that’s why we’re so excited to partner with them and continue to amplify this sport around the world,” said Marcel Marcondes, global marketing chief for AB InBev in a joint statement with UFC owner TKO Group Holdings late on Tuesday.

The six-year marketing deal sees Bud Light rekindling a relationship that began more than 15 years ago and lasted for a decade until Constellation Brands’ rival beer Modelo Especial replaced it in 2018

The sponsorship goes beyond just the U.S. market, though. AB InBev becomes the “official global beer partner” of the UFC, and will enjoy “meaningful brand visibility” before an estimated 900 million TV households that receive its broadcasts. 

Neither UFC parent TKO Group Holdings Neither it nor AB InBev could be reached immediately to comment on the financial value of the sponsorship.

UFC chief executive Dana White has popularized MMA into a kind of Fight Club in real life, where fans like Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg can channel what some believe is a healthy release of male testerone in a society of increasingly sedentary knowledge workers. 

‘Back in business’ with Bud Light, but not solely due to money

Perhaps suspecting pushback, White took to Fox News, a frequent and vocal critic of Bud Light, to explain to viewers why—in the words of presenter Sean Hannity—Americans might feel he sold out to a “woke” company.

“Let’s be clear: when you do sponsorships you definitely do sponsorships for the money too,” the burly CEO said in an interview on Wednesday. “Money is definitely a part of it.”

White, who had previously professed a “love” for Modelo beer, claimed visions of dollar signs were not the sole factor prompting his decision, however. Just as important were the core values of Bud Light, which he said align closely with his own. 

The UFC boss told Hannity he was moved by the company’s charitable work for families of first responders and law enforcement officers, the 65,000 Americans the company employs nationwide—veterans included—and the $700 million worth of crops it buys from U.S. farmers. 

For a beer company that saw American male consumers ditch Bud Light in droves for rivals Modelo and Coors Light over the Mulvaney partnership, it couldn’t have asked for a better seal of approval than White’s testimonial.

As part of the deal, the UFC said Bud Light would receive prominent branding inside the Octagon, its ringed cage where MMA combatants square off. It will also be a “highly visible presence” at activities during UFC fight weeks, where it builds anticipation though media-friendly events like weigh-ins.

“We are back in business together,” White said in the joint statement. 

Modelo meanwhile will have to console itself with the knowledge it eclipsed Bud Light this year to become America’s favorite beer.

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