(Adds estimate for Anheuser-Busch sponsorship spending in paragraph 5)
NEW YORK, March 17 (Reuters) - Anheuser-Busch InBev NV INTB.BR, the world’s biggest brewer, will discontinue its sponsorship of the National Hot Rod Association after this season.
A major sponsor in the worldwide sports business, Anheuser-Busch also said its Budweiser brand would end its 30-year backing of the Kenny Bernstein Racing team. Its sponsorship of the team is the longest running in motorsports.
Anheuser-Busch’s move comes as budgets for sponsoring sports teams and leagues have been curtailed by the recession. One recent forecast, by IEG, a unit of advertising giant WPP Plc, found that spending in 2009 by North American companies on sports sponsorship would likely grow more slowly than at any time since it began looking at such date.
In addition, IEG projected that sponsorship spending in 2009 on motorsports is expected to fall for the first time since the research firm began tracking such spending in 1985.
Anheuser-Busch’s spending in North America on sponsorships, mostly sports-related, rose about 5 percent last year, according to IEG. In 2007, the brewer spent an estimated $360 million to $365 million, making it the largest such spender.
The National Hot Rod Association is the world’s largest promoter of professional drag racing, and has roughly 80,000 members and more than 35,000 licensed competitors. (Reporting by Paul Thomasch and Ben Klayman, editing by Dave Zimmerman)