The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has announced a significant partnership with Anheuser-Busch, designating Bud Light as its official beer. This collaboration comes after a period of intense controversy and backlash surrounding Bud Light earlier this year, specifically in response to its association with transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney.
In a major development for both the UFC and Anheuser-Busch, the renowned mixed martial arts organization disclosed on Tuesday that it has solidified a multiyear agreement with the brewing giant. The partnership will entail a prominent and pervasive presence of the Bud Light brand within the UFC’s content, both in its broadcasts and online, commencing in 2024.
UFC CEO Dana White expressed his enthusiasm about the reunion with Anheuser-Busch, stating, “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. 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. I’m looking forward to all of the incredible things we will do in the years ahead.”
Anheuser-Busch’s CEO, Brendan Whitworth, echoed White’s sentiments, emphasizing their shared commitment to memorable sporting moments and the significant impact they aim to have in American communities. Whitworth noted the brand’s history of sponsoring iconic sports events, emphasizing the anticipation of collaborating with the UFC to celebrate passionate fans while making a positive difference across the nation.
This partnership heralds Anheuser-Busch’s replacement of Modelo as the official beer partner of the UFC. The significance of this development extends beyond the UFC, as it highlights the ever-evolving landscape of sponsorship and corporate affiliations in the sports and entertainment industry.
During an appearance on “The Sean Hannity Show,” Dana White addressed the decision to partner with Anheuser-Busch, emphasizing that it wasn’t motivated solely by financial considerations. He underscored the beer company’s substantial contributions to the American workforce, including the employment of 65,000 Americans and substantial financial support to U.S. farmers.
Moreover, White conveyed the importance of aligning core values, stating, “This is an American company. And I love this country, and this is more about me being aligned with somebody who is a sponsor of the UFC and somebody I’m going to work with every day.”
While acknowledging that not every business decision may be universally beloved, White emphasized that this partnership was grounded in core values rather than a complex decision. He reaffirmed his alignment with the UFC’s and Anheuser-Busch’s shared values.
The controversial backdrop to Bud Light’s collaboration with transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney was also acknowledged. Last spring, an Instagram ad featuring Mulvaney in the context of March Madness led to a significant backlash, resulting in plummeting sales for several months. The situation worsened when Alissa Heinerscheid, the vice president of marketing for Bud Light, made comments critiquing the brand’s past advertising as “fratty” and characterized its humor as “out of touch.”
Reflecting on the backlash, White acknowledged that fans may not love every decision made by UFC or Anheuser-Busch. However, he underscored that for him, this partnership was primarily about shared core values, making it an easy decision.
The controversy surrounding Bud Light’s association with Dylan Mulvaney has had a significant impact on the brand, with longtime consumers feeling alienated. Although some critics have distanced themselves from the iconic beer, others, like Kid Rock, have been spotted enjoying it, indicating that the brand’s enduring appeal remains a subject of debate.