Anheuser-Busch and UFC strike multiyear partnership, as brewer tries to turn around Bud Light sales

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Bud Light, made by Anheuser-Busch, sits on a store shelf in Miami on July 27, 2023.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images

Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Bud Light will again become the official beer sponsor for the Ultimate Fighting Championship with a six-year marketing partnership, the companies announced Tuesday.

The sponsorship deal is “well into the nine figures,” and the largest in the mixed martial arts promotion’s history, a source familiar with the deal told CNBC on Tuesday.

As part of the agreement, Bud Light will receive exclusive and prominent branding at UFC fights and events, as well as in-arena promotion. In addition, the brewer will collaborate on original content for UFC’s digital and social channels.

The deal goes into effect Jan. 1.

The agreement comes on the heels of a conservative boycott against Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Light that began this spring when the brand partnered with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney. The backlash put a dent in sales for the beer in the weeks that followed. At the height of the backlash, Modelo Especial dethroned Bud Light as the best-selling beer in the U.S.

With the deal, Anheuser-Busch reestablishes ties with an organization perceived to have a more conservative political bent than many other U.S. sports leagues. UFC CEO Dana White donated at least $1 million to a political action committee that supported Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign, and the ex-president appeared at a UFC event in Las Vegas earlier this year.

Anheuser-Busch’s relationship with UFC dates back to 2008. In 2017, the mixed martial arts company took on the fast-growing Modelo as its official beer sponsor.

Bud Light will now replace Modelo, which is distributed by Constellation Brands.

“Anheuser-Busch and Bud Light have always been on the cutting edge of iconic sporting moments that fans remember forever, and reuniting with UFC is a continuation of this industry leading legacy,” Anheuser-Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth said in a statement.

The UFC, which is owned by the newly formed TKO Group Holdings Inc., reaches an audience of more than 700 million fans, the companies said. The partnership grants Bud Light visibility in an estimated 900 million TV households in more than 170 countries.

“Anheuser-Busch and Bud Light were UFC’s original beer sponsors more than fifteen years ago. I’m proud to announce we are back in business together,” White said.

There are many reasons why I chose to go with Anheuser-Busch and Bud Light, most importantly because I feel we are very aligned when it comes to our core values and what the UFC brand stands for,” he added.

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