Anheuser-Busch InBev: World Cup success helps Bud

Anheuser-Busch InBev: World Cup success helps Bud

Published Jul. 21, 2010 9:05 p.m. ET

The King of Beers is closer to becoming the Coke of beers.

Anheuser-Busch InBev said Wednesday its Budweiser brand is closer to becoming a global icon because of the success of the company's World Cup marketing program.

The quadrennial soccer tournament - which crowned Spain the winner this month in South Africa - marked Budweiser's seventh turn as the official World Cup beer. But it was the first time under the company's new structure and increased focus on growing Budweiser around the world.

Belgian brewer InBev bought U.S. brewer Anheuser-Busch in 2008, saying then it wanted to spread the Budweiser brand around the world, similar to Coca-Cola.


So this year's World Cup, which involved teams from 32 countries, provided that chance. Chief Marketing Officer Chris Burggraeve said millions of people from dozens of countries were touched by the company's World Cup marketing campaign. The effort included a reality show online featuring fans from each country living in the same house, a Facebook campaign that garnered a million fans, local six-on-six soccer tournaments, and some 1.5 million people participating in online voting to choose a ''Man of the Match'' - the best performing player in each game.

''I need to believe at this moment that this will be conducive, and positively reflecting on Bud's potential to really become the Coke of beer,'' he said.

Beer, unlike soft drinks, is a regional product. Different brands tend to dominate markets in different countries.

So linking the brand to so many countries and so many people at once likely will help push it into new markets more quickly. The company declined to offer sales figures, saying it would provide more during its quarterly results next month. It also declined to say what the campaign cost.

In all, AB-InBev took its message to more than 50 markets around the world with World Cup-related marketing. In countries where Budweiser is not a leader, the company marketed some of its leading local brands instead, such as Brahma in Brazil, Harbin in China and Jupiler in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Burggraeve said six out of 10 people drank Budweiser in the stadium, where it was the only beer available. So perhaps people will return home with a taste for the beer.

Sales of Budweiser outpaced bottled water, sports and soft drinks combined. The company had to anticipate how countries would advance throughout the tournament to determine how much Budweiser it needed at concession stands and in beer gardens around the stadiums. American and British fans, he noted, drank more than other countries such as Algeria.

This was all done in a country where AB-InBev is not a dominant player. The next World Cup - in Brazil - will be even better for the brand, he said, because the company already has a stronghold there.