08/03/20: Michelob’s Marques discusses the brands new plans with the NBA


Medias First Morning Read
Monday August 3, 2020

With the NBA back in the saddle, Michelob tipped off its new campaign that designates Michelob ULTRA as the official beer partner of the NBA. Complete with fan-friendly features such as “Michelob ULTRA Courtside,” a digital experience that allows fans to appear virtually inside the arena and “share in the excitement of the game,” and tapping the talents of five-time NBA All-Star Jimmy Butler, the brand will be looking to jump-start activation with an invigorated fanbase eagerly awaiting play. Cynopsis Sports asked Ricardo Marques, VP of Michelob ULTRA about partnering with the NBA, its campaign and moving forward from the pandemic.

Marques on partnering with the NBA: Combining athleticism with enjoyment is what defines Michelob ULTRA, and these are two core values that the NBA represents which is what makes this partnership so magnetic. As a brand that stands for active enjoyment, we are always seeking opportunities to enter new territories, reach new regions and create moments of joy for our customers – and partnering with the NBA will allow us to do just that. At the heart of our partnership is “Michelob ULTRA Courtside,” a first-of-its-kind digital experience that brings basketball fans inside the arena during live NBA games and allows them to interact with other fans, players and celebrities. We are very excited to launch our multiyear relationship with the NBA, with this truly immersive, interactive and groundbreaking experience to bring a bit of normalcy to fans as we celebrate the return of basketball.

On the pandemic: We are always paying close attention to what our consumers are asking of us and continuously find ways to adjust to current needs. When the COVID-19 crisis hit, consumers were yearning for ways to stay active and maintain a sense of balance in their lives. We launched a few programs in response to this including Movement Live, a livestream workout series, led by celebrities and their trainers, that benefitted privately-owned gyms and fitness studios affected by closures during the pandemic. Also, our approach to our partnership with the NBA and the launch of “Michelob ULTRA Courtside” serves as another proof point of how we are adjusting our engagement approach and leaning into digital innovation to bring joyful moments to consumers at home.

On creating messaging: We are a beer brand, so we try to find simple, visual and joyful ways to deliver messaging and drive excitement around our initiatives. Specifically for “Michelob ULTRA Courtside,” we released a teaser video that really delivers on the mystery and anticipation of this virtual fan experience that we’ve shared on our social platforms and through our PR efforts. In addition, we are launching a weekly sweepstakes where we are giving away access to “Michelob ULTRA Courtside” to 32 fans a week, bringing them inside the arena during select, live NBA games.

On activating: As we started exploring this partnership opportunity with the NBA, it was at a time when the world as we knew it had changed with the spread of COVID-19. So, when it was time to ideate around how we would want to bring this partnership to life, we leaned into our principle of taking a consumer-first approach. One of our agencies actually brought this virtual fan experience idea to us, and when we presented it to the NBA, it was no surprise that they too were exploring a virtual fan experience. So here we are, months later and a day away from the debut of “Michelob ULTRA Courtside,” and I could not be more proud of how we, the NBA and Microsoft Teams rallied together to bring excitement to fans during this monumental moment in sports history.

On Courtside Experience: Michelob ULTRA Courtside will allow fans to feel like they are truly at the game where they can serve as a cheering section for their favorite team, interact with players, celebrities and other fans and be seen in broadcast during live NBA games. Simply put, fans can expect to be a part of an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience, hopefully with a cold Michelob ULTRA in hand.


Speaking of the NBA TNT saw its coverage of NBA Restart soar, fueled by Clippers delivering an average of 3.4 million total viewers – more than doubling the network’s average viewership for a regular season telecast, according to Nielsen. Overall, the doubleheader scored an average minute audience of 2.9 million viewers across TNT and TV Everywhere platforms, for a markup of 109% over the average viewership for an NBA game this season (1.4 million viewers). Additionally, TNT’s Inside the NBA garnered its best viewership since the opening week of the 2018-19 NBA season, with an average of 1.3 million viewers. Bleacher Report scored 8.2 million visits yesterday and 10 million engagements, its highest traffic since April and a 107% increase over NBA Opening Night.

The return of the NHL season opened hot with five Stanley Cup Qualifier games, and set viewership milestones, according to Fast National data from Nielsen and digital data from Adobe Analytics. The Canadiens win over the Penguins in overtime averaged a Total Audience Delivery of 1.572 million viewers, making it the most-watched NHL game of the 2019-20 season, excluding the Winter Classic and up 46% vs. the 2019-20 NHL regular-season average on NBC. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks/Oilers averaged a TAD of 1.117 million viewers, up 4% over the 2019-20 NHL regular-season average.

In Out of Home metrics, both NBA games on TNT drew very strong OOH audiences according to Tunity Analytics. The Clippers/Lakers game live averaged 751,758 OOH viewers, while the Jazz/Pelicans game average 353,259 OOH viewers.

ESPN appears to have locked in its new MNF crew, according to multiple reports and broken by Jim Miller. Steve Levy will serve as the next play-by-play announcer for the franchise, with Brian Griese and ESPN NFL analyst Louis Riddick rounding out the team. Lisa Salters will remain MNF’s sideline reporter

The Pac-12 CEO Group today approved the 2020 Conference-only fall schedule for football, which serves up a 10-game slate and number of features designed to provide maximum flexibility. Additionally, the CEO Group approved competition start dates and preseason practice policies for Conference-only seasons for men’s & women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, and men’s & women’s cross country. Practice policies and competition in all cases are subject to the approval of public health authorities and medical advice. In football, the Pac-12 unveiled a 10-game Conference-only schedule slated to being on Sept. 26. Games that are unable to be played on their scheduled date can be made up in their bye weeks or in Week 12 (December 12), with the Pac-12 Football Championship Game, presented by 76, now slated for December 18 or 19.

Meanwhile, a group of Pac-12 football players from multiple schools posted a letter in The Players’ Tribune to potentially opt out of fall camp and game participation unless the conference meets their demands for fair treatment, safety regulations and concerns over racial justice. According to ESPN, the athletes are asking the conference to form a permanent civic engagement task force designed to take on social injustice issues, as well as an annual Pac-12 Black College Athlete Summit with at least three athletes from every school in the conference. In addition, the letter says the group is look for 2% of conference revenue to be used to support financial aid for low-income Black students, community initiatives and development programs for college athletes on campus.

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The National Football League ordered up a new deal with Subway restaurants to become an Official Sponsor of the NFL in a multi-year deal that gives Subway exclusive marketing rights and activation opportunities at key NFL events and experiences. The brand will also sponsor NFL FLAG and support NFL PLAY 60. The long-term sponsorship kicks off this fall with a new ad campaign featuring NFL talent and personalities and restaurant promotions. “We know Subway fans are football fans and our footlongs have always been the perfect game night food, so we are proud to make the connection official with this multi-year NFL partnership,” said Carrie Walsh, Chief Marketing Officer of Subway. “We are a brand that prides ourselves on making it easier for fans and for athletes to be a little better every day. That’s why we’re excited to add our fresh flavor and make this and every football season, footlong season. With millions of sandwich combinations and more Subway restaurant locations across the country than any other chain, the possibilities for engagement are endless.”

Roman and the NHL forged a new partnership, naming Roman the official digital men’s health clinic of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs and 2020 Stanley Cup Final, serving as the first collaboration between NHL and Roman. Fans will see Roman displayed in a corner in-ice ad position during every game of the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers and 2020 Stanley Cup® Playoffs and will be directed to Roman’s telehealth services as well as Health Guide.


The Washington Wizards cemented a partnership with 1Sec Inc. in Japan that saw the company welcome computer-generated virtual influencer Liam Nikuro to Orlando as a virtual guest of the team. “Our goal as the Wizards brand is to always innovate and be leaders in the digital space,” said Jim Van Stone, Monumental Sports & Entertainment President of Business Operations and Chief Commercial Officer. “We thought this was a fun idea to be the first NBA team to introduce this new technology while at the same time engaging our fans throughout the globe, including D.C. and Japan.”

Speaking of DC, Capital One Arena will start accepting wagers at its temporary new sportsbook, converted from the venue’s box office area with the venue becoming the first professional team sports arena in the US to host a full-service betting operation, courtesy of a deal between William Hill and Monumental Sports & Entertainment last year.


Riot Games punched its ticket to host the 2020 League of Legends World Championship completely in Shanghai from Sept. 25 to Oct. 31. The country will again host the event in 2021 before making a return to North America to host Worlds in 2022. Most of the competition will be played without a live audience, although Riot noted that it remained open to the possibility of an audience for the finals, which will be played in Pudong Soccer Stadium.

Twitch is partnering with Cxmmunity to launch an esports league for historically Black colleges and universities that will see students at HBCUs receive scholarship and educational support through its Twitch Student program, while Twitch will help the schools expand their esports programs.

Niko Partners announced the release of its 2020 Esports in Asia report, available at https://nikopartners.com/esports-in-asia/. Takeaways include data that Asia has 510 million esports fans and 595 million esports gamers and that the continent generated nearly half of all global esports revenue in 2019 at $519 million. As a result of COVID-19, esports streaming viewership increased by 75-100%. “Asia is at the forefront of the world’s esports industry, but this doesn’t just mean it’s the largest market. We are seeing the future for all global regions in what is already playing out in Asia in regards to esports tournaments, esports tourism, mobile esports, government support and the development of esports infrastructure,” said Alexander Champlin, Niko’s Senior Analyst of Esports. “While the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly impacted the industry, the ways that Asia is managing and moving past these roadblocks is certainly going to serve as a roadmap for the rest of the world.”


Gianni Infantino will be able to remain FIFA president and should not be forced from power while under criminal investigation, FIFA told The Associated Press on Saturday. Th report states that a Swiss special prosecutor opened a criminal case into Infantino’s conduct on Thursday over his meetings with the country’s attorney general who has been leading a sprawling investigation into football corruption.

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On this Day
1921: MLB Commissioner Kenesaw Landis hands out life bans to 8 Chicago White Sox players accused in the famed Black Sox scandal, despite their acquittal by a Chicago jury.

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Which team did the White Sox face in the 1919 World Series that brought out the Black Sox scandal? (Email [email protected] with your answer and be sure to include your name, company and city).

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