Bud Light U-turns on Washington Commanders sponsorship
After terminating its contract with the NFL team following allegations of sexual harassment at the club, Bud Light is once again the side’s official beer sponsor.
Anheuser-Busch has picked up where it left off with its sponsorship of the Commanders for the 2023 NFL season, after dropping the team following a scandal surrounding the alleged sexual harassment of its female employees.
As reported in The Washington Post, in July 2020 fifteen female former employees of the Commanders claimed they were sexually harassed during their time working with the team. Dan Snyder, the club’s owner at the time, hired a Columbia law firm to conduct an internal investigation into the club’s workplace culture and policies.
Three senior figures left the club in the wake of the allegations.
The popularity of the Washington football team plummeted following the reports, with the Commanders ranked last in the NFL league for fan attendance in 2022.
In February 2022 the team also responded to a widespread call to change its name from ‘Washington Redskins’ to ‘Washington Commanders’, with the former name offensive to many Indigenous people. Major sponsors including FedEx and Nike threatened to withdraw their sponsorship of the team if the name was not changed.
“A lot of people now get it,” said Suzan Harjo, who was central to the fight to change the team’s name. “That it’s not all right to use disparaging terms, derogatory names, slurs, images, behaviours.”
When Anheuser-Busch announced in March 2022 that it was pulling out of its multi-year partnership with the Commanders, the beer company did not cite a reason, stating only that it had “decided not to renew its sponsorship of the Washington Commanders team at this time,” and that it remained fully committed to its “long-term partnership with the NFL and our other 26 team partners.”
Responding to the snub, a Commanders spokesperson told ESPN: “We’re exploring options in the alcohol category and looking for a strategic partner that will join us in the next era of Washington Football, as we play our first season as the Washington Commanders and prepare to develop a new venue. The team believes there is tremendous upside in the alcohol sponsorship category for the Commanders.”
A new season for Bud Light
The U-turn by Anheuser-Busch came as the team cut ties with its former owner Dan Snyder.
In April this year, Snyder sold the Commanders to Josh Harris’ ownership group for a record US$6.05 billion, the biggest deal yet for a North American pro sports team.
Upon the announcement, Harris said: “We look forward to having the honour to serve as responsible and accountable stewards of the Commanders franchise moving forward.”
Last week, Matt Davis, vice president of partnerships at Anheuser-Busch, announced that it was resuming its sponsorship of the Washington team, saying the beer giant is “excited to have the Commanders back on our NFL roster. Our history with the Washington franchise runs deep. We’re excited to bring more easy enjoyment to fans throughout the year.”
Bud Light branding will be displayed via videoboards, LED ribbons and wall banners at the FedExField throughout the 2023 season.
The beer brand will also stage a Bud Light Endzone on the stadium concourse, sponsor events and giveaways for Commanders fans and host a start-of-season party – the ‘Bud Light Easy to Summer Concert Series – at the team’s playing field.
“Bringing Anheuser-Busch back to FedExField as a partner not only reflects their confidence in our organisation, but also their commitment to our fans, who are the most loyal in the NFL,” said team president Jason Wright in a statement.