CHICAGO: Anheuser-Busch InBev, the brewing giant, is pursuing a "fewer, bigger, bolder" strategy as it seeks to maximise the return from its sponsorship investment.

Eelco van der Noll, the company's Vice President/Experiential Marketing, discussed this topic during a session at IEG's 2016 Sponsorship Conference.

And he reported that the owner of brands like Budweiser, Beck's and Stella Artois is adopting a more tightly focused model to allying with rights holders. "Our approach will be: 'Fewer, bigger, bolder,'" he said. (For more, including further details of the brand's strategy, read Warc's exclusive report: AB InBev "right-sizes" partnership programs.)

Rather than relying on assets such as simple signage and logo placement, the firm's emphasis increasingly rests on building unique experiences and content streams.

"We need partnerships. We need experiences. We need to enhance the fan and consumer experience, and for us to sell more beer," said van der Noll.

The need for change mirrors evolving consumer habits, as digital media allows for greater interactivity, instead of one-way push messaging.

Another motivation, however, is the rising cost of buying rights related to the kind of events that interest AB InBev, with intense competition among beer manufacturers fuelling this trend.

"Rights fees have been escalated and inflated – particularly in the beer category – for the past ten or 20 years. And we, in the beer category, have driven that inflation and escalation," said van der Noll.

"With a lot of legacy deals, basically they were renewed, then renewed and then renewed. Nobody knew exactly why, other than, 'We've been doing this for the past 20 years'. "

Drilling down into this subject, van der Noll asserted that the company is now "right-sizing" its approach to reflect both digital and financial realities.

"We have too much money tied up in rights fees, which does not allow us to activate in a proper way – and, therefore, sell more beer," he said. "At the end of the day, we all lose."

Data sourced from Warc