A Bud-weise approach to World Cup marketing

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There are the heavyweight brands, such as McDonalds and Coca-Cola, which have become so intrinsically linked with major sporting events that we assume they’ll be part of the occasion, even if we are yet to see their branding anywhere – no FIFA World Cup signage in your local branch of McDonalds, no exciting point-of-sales near the Coca-Cola in the Tesco down the road. A pure reliance on this ubiquity cannot result in any continued positive perception of a brand. They’re resting too heavily on their laurels, and whilst I’m sure their sales aren’t hurt too significantly, they’re not using the greatest sporting occasion on the planet as a platform for any form of exciting marketing activation. They are both addressing their sponsorship in their own small way, but none of their outputs have really grabbed any attention.

To truly harness the passion and culture that surrounds the World Cup, BigMac and Coke need to take a lesson from Anheuser Busch InBev’s (ABInBev) Budweiser who have used this opportunity to activate their "largest commercial campaign” in their history, across more than 50 countries, in their attempt to “light up the world cup” in Russia.

Side note: Budweiser, in combination with FIFA, received negative press four years ago for the so-called “Budweiser Bill” which put pressure on the Brazilian government to suspend their rules on drinking alcohol in stadiums during the World Cup. In 2018, perhaps still a little wounded, they’ve emerged, all guns blazing, to show the world who is the King of Beers.

Perhaps you’ve seen their playful Wall-E-esque film that sees drones delivering Budweiser or the social media videos of Budweiser branded vending machines encouraging fans to cheer for beer. Those near the Thames may have seen the ‘BudBoat’, decked out in their red livery, cruising up and down the river to choruses of ‘World in Motion’. Even if you’ve missed the eight million red light up cups on your screens that are given to every attendee of a World Cup game, Bud’s unfaltering presence in our supermarkets is unavoidable. Entrances and aisles are piled high with their promotional World Cup crates with limited-edition aluminium bottles and three-can Budweiser Bullet tubes, making Bud a no-brainer for any discerning football fan choosing a mid-game refreshment.

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The force with which Budweiser claims momentary monopoly, in our supermarkets is impressive. Then again, this seems a little simpler to control when you consider that Anheuser Busch InBev also own shelf “rivals” Corona, Stella Artois, Bud Light, Becks, Hoegaarden and Leffe.

If the purpose of marketing is to elevate visibility of a brand to an audience, then Budweiser’s pervasiveness suggests that they’re well on their way to an profitable position of World Cup ubiquity.

When you compare their efforts to that of fellow sponsor Hisense, it really doesn’t feel like a fair fight. Unlike Budweiser, Hisense have never sponsored the World Cup but have unwisely assumed that the simple act of doing so will be good for business. Other than the obligatory advertising boards around the edges of the pitch, they’ve offered us nothing in the way of opportunistic marketing. A Google search on the subject seems to suggest that a big screen in Australia is about as exciting as it gets for Hisense. The big news here for me was that Hisense is not, as I had previously thought, a brand of roll-on deodorant. If their marketing hasn’t even cleared up this confusion in my mind then it’s difficult for me to consider it anything but a failure.

I fanboy Bud from the stance of someone who is not only a football fan but already openly receptive to their branding and sit firmly within their target demographic, so of course, I am going to have spotted each of their efforts to turn my head. If, however, your beer goggles are usually trained to ignore World Cup marketing then I will gladly open your eyes to it, because even if you don’t intend to buy yourself a Bud, it’s very easy to admire their efforts.

Football’s coming home, and so’s Bud – in every World Cup fan’s basket.