Anheuser Busch via AP
This image from an Anheuser-Busch advertisement shows a robot carrying bottles of beer. The beer maker has 10 commercials in this year's Super Bowl.
By Reporter
CNBC
updated 2/4/2005 2:24:15 PM ET 2005-02-04T19:24:15

No company will be better represented in Super Bowl XXXIX than Anheuser-Busch. The beer maker has 10 commercials, proving once again that when it comes to big time sports, it is a major player.

Anheuser-Busch is a player thanks, in part, to the most powerful man in sports that you've never heard of — a man who gets paid big bucks to attend major sporting events — and drink ice cold Bud for a living.

Whether it's holding court with NBA Commissioner David Stern, hanging out with NASCAR superstar Dale Earnardt, Jr. or talking business with a team of NFL executives, Tony Ponturo is typically right in the middle of the action.

He has hunted alongside retired General Norman Schwarzkopf, posed with former Viacom boss Mel Karmazin and had a peekaboo-view of Mark McGwire breaking Roger Maris' home run record.

“I guess ... when I was 10-12-16 years old, I probably couldn't have carved out a better job,” Ponturo said.

That “job” is more like a sports fan's ultimate fantasy.

Ponturo is head of sports marketing for Anheuser-Busch, which isn't just the King of Beers — it's the King of Sports.

Each year, the company spends around $300 million on sports advertising — more than any other Fortune 500 company. And it's Ponturo who decides where that money goes.

It's no wonder, then, that he's routinely called one of the most powerful people in all of sports.

“It's kind of like a dream come true. I always say, if you started all over again, would you get to the same place? And you just don't know,” he said.

And he knows it's a pretty good place to be ... sports fan and beer drinker.

“Yeah, as our chairman August Busch always says, 'Just think about it. Part of your job is to go out and be in the market place, enjoy our product and observe what's going on,’ ” Ponturo said.

Ultimately, Ponturo's responsibility is to sell beer. And to do that, he's stocked nearly every sport's refrigerator with the company's suds.

Anheuser-Busch is the official sponsor of Major League Baseball, the prominent sponsor of a NASCAR giant, a fixture in boxing, the NFL, hockey and the X-Games and just about every other sport you can think of.

“Our research tells us, and probably our gut tells us, that the consumer is a sports fan and if we can be involved in their passion, and things they're interested in, then that's a way for us to sell our product,” Ponturo said.

And the leagues are more than happy to have Anheuser-Busch on their teams.

“To have them to support our product ... to have them support our local teams and to have them as a marketing partner globally ... is a terrific asset for entity, especially for us,” said NBA Commissioner David Stern.

But when it comes to Anheuser-Busch's marketing relationships, the NFL is king.

During this year's Super Bowl, the company will have more commercials than anyone else. The brew maker spends more than $100 million a year on NFL advertising.

“Because of its broad reach, it crosses all consumer groups, and it's a sport that continues to have a high quality image and a positive PR effect,” he said.

But selling beer, or anything else for that matter, isn't as easy as it used to be, mostly because television audiences are more fragmented than ever. And it has become harder to predict whether a commercial or sign will actually work.

“As an advertiser, you're trying to chase the elusive consumer. Where are they going? And where are they landing?” Ponturo said.

In today's environment, one marquee mention during a broadcast or a key placement in a stadium can be worth millions of dollars.

Ponturo says the Budweiser logo, shown prominently during this year's highly-rated World Series, was priceless.

“What we did calculate was that all of the residual value for the World Series both on the telecast and print, and news highlights showing the sign — that value paid for all those signs in the stadiums as if the rest of the year was for free,” he said. “That's significant.”

As is Ponturo's position — as one of the most influential people in sports.

© 2012 CNBC, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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