By Andrew Willis
The world’s biggest brewer just may have done a good deed for hockey fans everywhere, and won new fans for Budweiser, without trespassing on hotly-protected Olympic sponsorship rights.
Club Bud, however, is simply a place for the brewer to entertain its friends at the Games. That’s well within the spirit of marketing rules set by the International Olympic Committee.
What hockey fans may come to appreciate, when the Olympics move to Russia in 2014, is just who qualifies as a friend of Anheuser-Busch.
The brewer co-sponsored a bash earlier this week with the National Hockey League: Bud Light is the official beer of the NHL. Among those attending was NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Despite the enormous success of hockey at these Games - viewership numbers are off the charts - the NHL, and its players’ union, still have not decided whether the league will allow players to compete at the Sochi Games in four years' time. This has got to be making the Russians nuts.
Outside marketing experts say this decision should be dead simple – hockey gets unmatched exposure – but the NHL has a record of getting offside on marketing and broadcasting decisions.
A night at Club Bud should help Mr. Bettman make the right decision.
At the party, Mr. Bettman saw several hundred well-dressed young people in a singing, dancing hockey frenzy. Okay, the cold Bud helped fuel the fires. As did the Bud Girls wearing nothing but body paint and a smile.
When he left the bar, the NHL boss walked streets lined with teenagers proudly wearing Sidney Crosby, Robert Loungo and Alex Ovechkin jerseys.
The NHL has a problem maintaining its appeal to a younger demographic, who are opting for Grand Theft Auto over Penguins v. Red Wings. Looking across a revved-up crowd at Club Bud, Mr. Bettman had to realize that playing in the Olympics builds his league’s credibility and profile with a whole new generation of fans.