If you’ve seen an NFL game, you’ve probably seen a beer commercial. They go hand in hand together like peanut butter and jelly or Skip Bayless trolling whoever is playing in the NBA Finals. From the Bud Bowl to talking frogs to corn syrup, it’s been part of the NFL for a long time. And it’s big business, too—Bud Light has been the official beer of the NFL to the tune of over one billion dollars over the last several years. (Leading to everything from “Dilly Dilly” audibles to proclamations to murderous Super Bowl ads.)
But there’s one element that has been missing and unless you’ve paid close attention, you may not have even noticed. To this point, active NFL players have not been allowed to appear in ads. As of next season, that will change. Beer companies will now be allowed to use active player likenesses and no longer have to solely rely on retired players or coaches to help sell their product.
Via Morning Consult:
The NFL is rolling out new guidelines for its alcohol sponsorship policy, easing restrictions on the use of team and player likeness in ads for beer, distilled spirits and wine, according to a league email distributed Tuesday to team presidents, marketing and sponsorship executives and counsel.
The email, which was leaked to Morning Consult, said beer brands who partner with teams will be able to use images of players to market their products. That includes Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Bud Light — the NFL’s official category sponsor — and also extends to other brands who have existing team relationships or wish to seek one.
While the NFL’s guidelines are being loosened, there are still some restrictions being placed upon the league’s active stars being involved in marketing beer. Players still aren’t allowed to “endorse” the product (which seems to be quite the cognitive conundrum if they are appearing in ads designed to sell the product), and players must only appear via licensed photos in uniform from the Associated Press. In other words, you won’t see Aaron Rodgers try to redeem himself with a courtside chug in street clothes.
There are fairly strict limits on how beer companies can use those images in marketing materials, according to three people with direct knowledge of the new guidance: Only active players can be used; creative materials cannot imply that players are endorsing the product; and if brands want to use more than one player’s likeness, they have to use a minimum of six players.
A brand that is only interested in using one pro’s likeness is still required to sign a sponsorship deal with his respective team, according to two of the league sources, who also said beer category sponsors must use licensed Associated Press action shots of players in uniform for creative materials.
Some of these remaining restrictions go above the NFL to the government, which doesn’t allow alcohol advertising to be linked to improved athletic performance. Of course, given all of this information, it might also be worth noting that while active players can now appear in these ads, it may not make much of a difference anyways. Research has shown that beer commercials don’t necessarily lead to an increase in sales. If these companies are really looking to turn an extra profit, maybe they need to go the University of Georgia route and start selling $25,000 beers instead.