- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Every year, business publications release their lists of the most powerful people in the world of sports. Every year, Tony Ponturo’s name appears, usually somewhere near the top 10.

Most people have no idea who Ponturo is, but pretty much everyone has seen his work. He’s the man responsible for “Bud Bowl.” He’s the guy behind those commercials featuring horses playing football. Since 1990, he has been the man responsible for turning St. Louis-based brewery Anheuser-Busch into one of the most ubiquitous sports advertisers.

This week, Ponturo said he will step down as Anheuser-Busch’s vice president of global media and sports marketing.

“I have had a great career at Anheuser-Busch,” Ponturo said in a statement. “The timing was right to move on to the next thing and new adventures.”

His departure came one day after Belgian brewery InBev announced the completion of its $52 billion purchase of Anheuser-Busch. The timing might be coincidental, but many in the sports industry are waiting anxiously to see if InBev will cut back on the company’s sports ad spending.

Anheuser-Busch was the top sports advertiser in 2007, paying for more than $218 million in commercials, SportsBusiness Journal reported in March. That figure represents more than 80 percent of Anheuser-Busch’s ad budget for last year.

Ponturo is credited with boosting Anheuser-Busch’s advertising influence by bringing its media operation in-house. The move saved the company millions of dollars and allowed it to be more creative.

Through the years, the company launched some of the most inventive ad campaigns. “Bud Bowl,” which featured animated beer bottles playing football, became a staple of Super Bowl telecasts. A campaign featuring talking frogs became one of the most recognizable of the 1990s. His effort to create Bud.TV, a Budweiser-themed Web portal, was a flop, but it was original.

“Tony has been an invaluable resource to Anheuser-Busch and to me,” CEO August Busch IV said in a note to workers. “Our company has achieved a presence and position in the United States and the world due directly to Tony and his team. In the early 1990s, he took a risk and brought our media operation in-house and created a world-class operation that has benefited [Anheuser-Busch] and our stakeholders.”

Note - The American Indoor Football Association plans to announce Wednesday that it will bring a team to Washington, with games to be played at the D.C. Armory. The new DC Armor of the AIFA, which has no affiliation with the NFL or the Arena Football League, struck a deal with the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission to be a main tenant at the 68-year-old facility. As part of the lease agreement, the team will assist in upgrades, including the installation of air conditioning.

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