Sometimes a partnership just makes perfect sense.
That’s how former baseball star Alex Rodriguez saw it when presented with the opportunity to invest in and become a part of AB InBev’s Dominican Republic-based beer brand Presidente. Last week, A-Rod and AB InBev announced the partnership, which goes far beyond your run-of-the-mill endorsement deal, with Rodriguez becoming chairman of Presidente USA and taking a minority stake in the brand. He’s tasked with working to grow Presidente’s presence in the United States, including the release of new products and materials.
In an exclusive interview with Fast Company, Rodriguez says this was maybe the easiest decision he’s ever had to make regarding an investment or brand partnership. Before being picked first overall in the 1993 Major League Baseball draft, before the 2009 World Series win with the Yankees, before all the Golden Gloves, Silver Sluggers, MVPs, and waaay before J. Lo, there was Presidente. “People ask me, when did you learn about Presidente?” says Rodriguez, whose parents were Dominican immigrants to the United States. “My answer is, ever since I was in Pampers! Because Presidente was present at my house every night at dinner, where there was at least one—or sometimes, you know, a lot more than that. My father is no longer with us, but I think he would have been more proud of me being a part of Presidente than hitting all those home runs, and winning a championship with the Yankees.”
Rodriguez grew up in Washington Heights, New York, and sees huge potential first among his fellow Dominican Americans and other Latinx beer drinkers. “This is a beer that [in DR] is like Coca-Cola, like Pepsi, like Google, like the Yankees are here in America,” he says. “When you are Dominican in this country—there’s almost 2 million Dominicans here, and almost 60 million Hispanics—we get to come to this great country where dreams come true, lifting a Presidente is like lifting the Dominican flag.”
It’s a tough time to be joining the beer industry, with overall sales slowing over the last few years, as wine, spirits, and the new kid on the block, hard seltzer, grab market share. Rodriguez acknowledges these challenges, but also feels like the brand has been flying under the radar in the States. “We have an incredible brand that’s been around since 1935, but in the U.S. it only started [being for sale] in the early ’90s in Miami, so it’s a very, very young brand,” he says. “In many ways it’s going to be an introduction to the 80% of Americans who don’t know it, and a reintroduction to the 20% or so that do.” In that sense, Rodriguez would seem to be looking to turn Presidente into the next Red Stripe, a once underappreciated Jamaican brew that is now a global success. “We want to make sure that when you’re drinking [Presidente] here in America, it tastes exactly the same way [as] it feels in DR. The drinkers here will know they’re drinking the Dominican beer in America, and that’s going to be a big win for us.”
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As an investor, some deals and decisions are difficult to make. So many things to consider, from financials to whether it’s a good fit. . But sometimes, it’s a no-brainer. I can’t tell you how ecstatic I am to be able to partner with an industry giant like Anheuser-Busch. And what makes it even more special is that I’m working with a brand that is near and dear to me. . Growing up as a Dominican-American in the U.S., @presidente__usa ???? was not only a beer, it was part of our community. It was at every neighborhood picnic. It brought us all together. . Now I am so excited and honored to be the Chairman of PRESIDENTE USA. I cannot wait to help build its future. Cheers!!!! ????
Rodriguez’s post-baseball career has already been full of surprising successes, from his rapid rise into the game’s best TV analyst to his well-regarded interview podcast, The Corp, produced by Barstool Sports. His December 2018 interview with his friend Kobe Bryant made news this week after Bryant’s death in a helicopter accident, as it was Rodriguez who got Bryant to share that he used helicopters so he could could spend more time with his children.
Rodriguez has hit the ground running for Presidente, shooting a Super Bowl spot this week, and as he notes, “I’ve been on Instagram for like, five years, and [this Presidente post] was probably my one or two most commented. And I think it’s because it hit a chord, and it’s that Dominican chord that’s authentic. People understood it.”
He adds that he’s also been fielding calls from a whole roster of his fellow Dominican major-league baseball pros. “I probably had calls from four or five dozen athletes that are, are really, really, really wanting to invest and come on board and really be a part of it,” he says, “’cause they feel that this is the right partnership. They feel this is going to be something special—and, to be honest, they drink a lot of it.”