Why Anheuser-Busch Is Right: MLB Opening Day Should be a National Holiday

"MLB Opening Day is more than just the beginning of the season. It's an American tradition." These are just a few of the words in Anheuser-Busch Inbev's (NYSE: BUD  )  new petition that asks the White House to make the start of baseball season a national holiday. With only a few thousand more signatures required for an official response, what should the Obama Administration do?

The financial implications are huge
Any time a multi-billion dollar company creates a marketing campaign with TV spots, digital ads, and the support of Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, one can assume it's for more than just goodwill. In this case, the financial implications are huge.

Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser is the official beer of the MLB, a sponsorship that's worth $40 million per season by some estimates, probably more. The brewer's annual endorsement deal with the Chicago Cubs alone is in the low eight figures, and that's just one team. In addition to individual arrangements with more than 20 other clubs, Anheuser-Busch sponsors the league's Opening Week festivities -- hence the Opening Day tie-in.

How the world's largest brewer -- and the economy -- benefit
If the start of baseball season were to become a national holiday, the company would benefit in two ways. First, and perhaps most obviously, Opening Day television viewership -- whether it's from the couch or local bar -- should improve.

Despite some intriguing match-ups, recent TV ratings have been far from desirable. Last year's MLB opener, for instance, drew fewer viewers than a typical mid-summer game. By giving fans the ability to miss work for Opening Day, more eyeballs would see Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser ads, which appear in-stadium and during commercial breaks.

Budweiser roof at Wrigley Field. Dave Herholz, Flickr. 

It's also possible fans would buy more beer. According to Nielsen, nine of the 10 biggest beer-buying days in the U.S. are either national or cultural holidays -- the Super Bowl is the only sporting event to make the list.

Whether it's because most employers grant these days off, or employees stay home the following day, the numbers don't lie. Holidays correlate with beer consumption. If Opening Day became one, it's likely more fans would sip on a cold one as a result. And that's not only good for Anheuser-Busch, it's good for the entire alcoholic beverage industry, which contributes more than $400 billion to the American economy each year.

What should the White House do?
Assuming the petition gets the necessary 100,000 signatures to elicit a response (it's currently about 6,000 shy), I have two words for the White House: consider it. Although baseball isn't the country's most popular sport, it continues to be "America's pastime" because of powerful regional fan support. A holiday designation could provide the ratings boost it needs.

Of course, anytime a work force is given a day off en masse, there's potential for a resulting loss in productivity. If this is a fear of the administration, it would be smart to simply replace an existing holiday with Opening Day. Columbus Day is the best candidate -- it arguably has the lowest sentimental value of its peers, and it doesn't stimulate consumption in quite the same way as a slate of baseball games does.

Beer sales aside, another reason to make Opening Day a holiday is rather simple: Plenty of fans already skip work for it. Anheuser-Busch reports over 20 million say they've "played hooky" for the start of MLB season, so imagine how many haven't admitted to doing so.

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