TicketManager | Shot in the Arm or Bomb? Jägermeister’s New Interest in Soccer

The relationship between spirits brands and sports has always been a tricky course for marketers to navigate given legal restrictions on promotion, the need to protect underage fans, and, in some cases, outright sponsorship prohibitions.

In general, the partnership marketplace is more amenable to alignments between hard alcohol products and sports properties than ever before. Yet new deals such as Jägermeister’s just-announced title sponsorship of a first-ever in-season tournament for USL League One still raise compelling questions.

In this case, the brand itself is intriguing on its own, with a well-established party-hard image and a quirky sponsorship history.

Most recently, Jägermeister has been the official shot of the NHL in the U.S. through a deal signed prior to the 2018-19 season and renewed for multiple years just before the 2022-23 season. The brand also has had a number of partnerships with NHL teams over the past seven years. Activation has been primarily through virtual and in-arena signage, as well as digital content plays such as the “NHL Shot of the Night” feature.

Jägermeister was also a major sponsor of European auto racing from 1972 to 2000. The program lives on through the ‘72StagPower online community that celebrates its legacy.

And, according to the Mast-Jägermeister corporate website, Gunter Mast, who was CEO of the family-owned company in the 1970s, pioneered soccer jersey sponsorship in Germany’s Bundesliga with a deal to put the brand’s stag logo on the front of the Eintracht Braunschweig club’s shirts in 1973, despite the German Football Association’s ban on jersey advertising. According to the site, “It cost him 100,000 Marks and a short legal dispute with the DFB that was well covered in the media.”

Which brings us back to Jägermeister’s latest sponsorship foray with USL League One, the 12-team third division of the United Soccer League men’s pro circuit. On one hand, it could be considered a low-profile affiliation, given the small markets it will play out in. But on the other, the agreement is for three years at an annual mid-six-figure commitment, according to Sports Business Journal, so it could be seen as testing the waters for future sponsorship ventures.

Aside from the NHL partnership, Jägermeister’s U.S. marketing efforts have been almost exclusively tied to nightlife and music, supporting the brand’s “The Best Nights of Your Life” theme. The brand has had myriad sponsorships of and collaborations with music festivals, concerts, clubs and artists, including Snoop Dog and Post Malone.

On its face, the alliance between the USL and Jägermeister could be viewed as an odd couple. How will a brand aimed at a 21-and-over audience meld with a league popular with young fans and families?

It’s likely that Jägermeister wants to connect with young adults who are drinking less than older generations. Sports is an effective way to reach that cohort, but it might be challenging for Jägermeister to make its presence relevant and engaging and forge a link between the club and the pitch.