Tough Mudder Names AB InBev’s Shock Top as U.S. Beer Sponsor

The Tough Mudder obstacle course event notorious for sending contenders through 10,000 volts of electricity named a beer sponsor to match: Anheuser-Busch InBev NV’s Shock Top.

The two-year deal, for undisclosed terms, replaces a previous pact with Heineken NV’s Dos Equis and covers more than 60 events in the U.S. and Canada, Tough Mudder said. Other regions, like the U.K. and Australia, may have different beer sponsors. Tough Mudder participants traditionally receive a free cup of beer and are encouraged to chug it after completing the event, a 10- to 12-mile obstacle course that sends contenders through challenges such as mud pits and fire.

“You look at their brand and it’s almost the same as what Tough Mudder is all about,” Dan Weinberg, Tough Mudder’s vice president of global partnerships, said. “Their logo is a guy with a Mohawk, and we provide Mohawks at the event.”

AB InBev is boosting marketing spending for Shock Top, a Belgian-style wheat beer that’s trying to lure drinkers away from larger, older rival Blue Moon, brewed by MillerCoors. Shock Top -- this “shock” is a term for a bundle of wheat -- spent $13 million on measured media in the first nine months of 2014, according to Kantar Media, up from $1.1 million in 2013. Blue Moon sold twice as much beer as Shock Top in 2013, according to Beer Marketer’s Insights.

Representatives for AB InBev did not immediately reply to a request for further comment.

The explosion of craft beer sales in recent years has prompted big brewers to develop and push their own craft-style products. Blue Moon is the centerpiece of MillerCoors’ Tenth & Blake Beer Co., created in 2010 to offset declining sales of mainstream beers. Global brewers have also gobbled up smaller fish, as AB InBev did in November when it acquired 10 Barrel Brewing Co. of Bend, Oregon.

Mini-Mudders

Tough Mudder held its first event in 2010 and will do about 70 around the world this year, for as many as 700,000 participants -- nearly double the 2012 amount, Chief Executive Officer Will Dean said in a Jan. 9 interview in London. The Brooklyn, New York-based company has developed additional events for both women, dubbed Mudderella, and Mini-Mudders for kids, and this year will introduce a new format called Urban Mudder, featuring shorter urban tracks, and new obstacles, including a 15-yard crawl through a chamber filled with a tear-gas-like substance.

“It’s Tough Mudder redefined,” Dean, a 34-year-old Englishman, said.

Tough Mudder works to gain participants via partnerships with companies that encourage employees to join in teams. The Dos Equis sponsorship began in 2011, and allowed the brand to host a VIP area at U.S. events. Other corporate sponsors of Tough Mudder include Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s Jeep vehicles, and Under Armour Inc.

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