While much has been said about Anheuser-Busch, Inc.’s new six-year renewal with Major League Baseball—most notably the length and size of the deal—the partnership offers a key takeaway for rightsholders: The importance of keeping long-term relationships fresh.

MLB accomplished that task by providing Budweiser two new assets: presenting status of Opening Week and the inaugural Wild Card Games.

IEG SR spoke with Blaise D’Sylva, Anheuser-Busch’s vice president of media, sports, and entertainment marketing, and Tim Brosnan, MLB’s executive vice president of business, about the thinking behind the relationship, the importance of collaborative, evolving relationships, and other topics.

Below are edited excerpts from the conversation:

IEG SR: Budweiser has sponsored Major League Baseball for 33 years. That’s a long run. Tell me about the thinking behind the partnership.  

D’Sylva: We’re thrilled to extend the relationship, which will take us up to nearly four full decades with Major League Baseball.

It’s a perfect marriage of two great American traditions: the great American pastime and the great American beer. It’s a great fit between Budweiser and MLB’s large, passion fan base, many of whom are avid beer drinkers.

The sponsorship gives us a national platform that we can leverage with our sales teams and wholesalers to give them a competitive advantage in the market.

Brosnan: Budweiser is synonymous with Major League Baseball, and the relationship is consistent with our other partnerships. It’s always about best of breed, which we know Budweiser is. It’s a brand that shares that same standing and goodwill that the Major League Baseball brand stands for.

IEG SR: How do you keep the relationship fresh?

D’Sylva: As part of the continuation of the deal, we worked with Major League Baseball to identify new assets that we could use to promote baseball and tap into fan passion.

There are a couple of things that we’re excited about. The first is presenting sponsorship of the new Wild Card Games that Major League Baseball is introducing this year.  While the extension doesn’t begin until next year, we added the asset this year to be part of the excitement of the first-ever games. We think it will be tremendously popular, and it gives us an opportunity to create a natural connection with the most exciting week in baseball after the regular season closes.

In addition, Budweiser is designated as the presenting sponsor of MLB Opening Week. That gives us an opportunity to take advantage of opening week and create a national platform for brand activation and consumer engagement.  

Brosnan: The best partnerships are collaborative, where existing relationships get revamped. This is the type of partnership that what is new next year might be additional and incremental. We looked at our existing inventory and challenged ourselves to come up with different platforms

We try to keep the relationship fresh, new and unique.

D’Sylva: That’s an important point. We work in collaboration with Major League Baseball to enhance and build on the partnership to create new ways to engage consumers. We’re excited to have beginning- and end-of-season platforms that we can use to elevate the sponsorship and take advantage of assets to create experiences for fans. That includes experiences at the World Series, batting practice at an All-Star Game and other assets that only Major League Baseball can give us.

We have a deep history with baseball, and we’re always looking for ways to take the relationship to the next level.

IEG SR: Budweiser this year added presenting status of the MLBFanCave.com concert series around the MLB Fan Cave. Budweiser also is a major sponsor of Jay-Z’s inaugural Made in America music festival over Labor Day weekend. Is music playing a more important role in Budweiser’s marketing mix?

D’Sylva: Budweiser has a long history in music. That’s something that goes back to our sponsorship of Rolling Stones tours in the ‘80s and ‘90s. The Made in America festival is another way to connect to a key consumer passion point.

We’re always looking for ways to take music to sports and vice versa. They’re both hugely popular platforms, and any way we can integrate them will make a relationship more successful.