Anheuser-Busch inks multiyear deal to sponsor NASCAR pole award

NASCAR has a pole award sponsor again, and it is a familiar one.

Anheuser-Busch, which sponsored the award for 30 years (20 years with Busch, 10 with Budweiser) before Coors Light took it over in 2008, has inked a multiyear deal to sponsor the pole award in NASCAR's national series.

The beer company will use the award to market Busch, which also serves as the sponsor of Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick for 16 Cup series races.

Busch also gets "official beer" status as part of the deal (Busch had been the official beer of NASCAR from 1988-2007), and Busch liked the idea of being part of a celebratory moment again with the pole award.

"We see immense value in the loyalty of the NASCAR fan and us being integrated throughout the sport in a number of different touch points," said Chelsea Phillips, Anheuser-Busch vice president of value and beyond beer brands.

"So in addition to working with Stewart-Haas and Kevin, the track partnership and then the league partnership was something of interest and then the pole award has had such significant history with us and the sport is the right fit for us."

The pole award -- which includes a monetary bonus each week and a year-end bonus for the most poles -- will be retroactive to the start of the season and the ceremonial presentation of the award will start this week at Auto Club (California) Speedway.

This is the second major NASCAR contingency sponsorship (recently renewed Mobil 1 was the first) that will not include a sticker on the side panels near the front of the car. NASCAR is relinquishing that area to the teams and as contingency sponsors are being signed or renewed, that sticker is not part of the deal. NASCAR has promised social and digital assets to those sponsorships instead of placement on the car.

"Where we see fan engagement potential is very much in the social sphere. ... There's a lot of really unique and interesting ways that we can continue to engage fans in a second-screen way," Phillips said.

The deal with Anheuser-Busch, as a past sponsor of the award and still having an involvement in the sport, was the most logical one once NASCAR failed to extend its deal with MillerCoors at the end of 2017. Anheuser-Busch, especially with Busch, has been active in branding areas of tracks and also brought 500 fans as contest winners to the Daytona 500.

"There was interest on both sides of that conversation happening," NASCAR vice president Lou Garate said. "We also got some other calls, but we thought this was the best brand and organization to go with. It's a good match between our two brands -- two brands that are steep in heritage and [we] on both sides believe in the value of the brands.

"It does make an easier discussion to have. Busch beer is committed to NASCAR. The past couple of years, they've probably one of the most actively engaged brands in our sport."

One thing that is not part of the deal is the naming rights sponsorship of the preseason race that features pole winners from the previous year. Advance Auto Parts currently has that sponsorship. The race was previously known as the "Busch Clash" and many people still call it by that name.

"That's historically what everybody remembers that race to be and how it was all attached to the pole award," Garate said. "Advance, we haven't had any discussions with them about that. But do we think about things like that all the time? Absolutely.

"I'm not saying it won't happen, but it's not something that's immediately going to be a change you would see."