Lately, the Indian football space has been experiencing a lot of traction from brands. From auto manufacturers to FMCG to finance to sports, brands just can’t get enough of the second most popular sport in the country. With homegrown leagues like ISL and I-League playing their game right, the reach of this sport is one of the crucial factors for this heed. Bringing this to perspective, who wouldn’t want to leverage a game that keeps over 100 million fans hooked – well beyond 90 minutes?
But while these leagues have been in there for quite some time, one sporting extravaganza which is religiously followed by football fans across the world is - Premier League. And like every year, this year too the league has not just kept the hype up, but has also been grabbing quite a few eyeballs of the Indian marketing fraternity. The league, which acts as an umbrella - sheltering world-class talent and prominent franchisees backed by global viewership - has already had a successful stint in filling up the broadcasting inventory. To understand more, we got in touch with Ben Verhaert, President – South Asia, AB InBev (Budweiser’s parent company), Broadcast Co-presenting Sponsor of PL. In his interaction with Debashish Chakraborty of afaqs! Reporter, he talks about Budweiser’s association with global football, marketing objectives, customised activations, yield factor, and more.
India homes a mind- boggling base of over 100 million followers of football. How does a brand like Budweiser plan to cater and connect with them?
The enthusiasm around football has grown multifold in India over the past decade. Drumming into this very passion point, Budweiser has been curating tailored experiences and engaging content to celebrate the zeal and gusto of the sport with fans locally and worldwide. Budweiser 0.0’s recent association with the highly followed EPL and La Liga in India is yet another step in that direction. Our efforts are steered to provide football enthusiasts an opportunity to come together, enjoy the sport and give the event a more celebratory vibe.
Budweiser has had a prolonged association with the football space worldwide. What was the idea behind getting on board as the Broadcast co-presenting partner for Premier League in India?
Our overarching ambition is to bring people together while energising and inspiring them to bring alive the euphoric energy of the game. We are all about creating bona fide experiences that connect with individuals on a personal level while harmonising crowds. We have been a long-time partner of the FIFA World Cup, which has allowed us to champion our dream of energising and inspiring the 3.2 billion football fans watching the world cup across the globe. Given our commitment to football, we saw an opportunity with Premier League to further connect with fans and engage with them not just once in four years, but year-round, with large-scale activations, on-ground screenings and engagement activities across key markets.
What factors do you think brands and marketers consider before putting their bet on an association like this? How did Budweiser come to this conclusion?
As a brand, we are core believers in engaging with and exploring opportunities that fuel unity and bring people together. We have brought this to life in all our activations and collaborations with music festivals and our very own IP - BUDX. Football, similarly, is all about bringing people together, uniting people through their mutual love for the sport or their favourite teams,the chants or the friendly banter - the atmosphere truly brews a sense of togetherness. It is also a high energy spectacle and the very euphoric vibe surrounding the sport is what excites us and drives us to associate with sporting events, be it our long- term partnership with the FIFA World Cup, the Premier League or the La Liga.
While sporting properties like ISL and I-League are homegrown, Premier League is a global extravaganza. What connect do you plan to establish?
Football is one of the biggest passion points for our consumers in India and excitement around the sport has grown significantly over the years. The Premier League is one of the most popular sporting tournaments in the country and by partnering with them on a global scale, Budweiser 0.0 aims to elevate the experience for our consumers here in India by bringing the sport closer to them – through exclusive match viewing parties and engagement activities with official fan clubs. We want to offer well-curated experiences as well as exclusive content surrounding the kings of the game to our consumers, allowing us to be an integral part of their football experience and celebrate the spirit of the game together.
Big screen activation, Select FC, caters to a huge fan base. What kind of activities or customisations can we expect from Budweiser here?
We are running an integrated campaign in India with mainline and digital advertising, strategic digital activations with a central theme of how it is in all of us to taste greatness and be a King. We are also driving brand experiences through our hero asset, the Budweiser Light-up Cup. We also have exclusive fan parks where we showcase the iconic league trophy and viewing parties combined with engagement activities at all the screenings to keep the fans engaged and celebrate the excitement surrounding the game. Additionally, we are also looking at content partnerships to celebrate the growing relevance and cultural impact of the game within the country. Our association with Premier League and La Liga goes beyond mere sponsorship. We are committed to growing the passion for the beautiful game around the world and this will be brought to life through a series of well-curated experiences that celebrate the sport and the players.
Where do you think the target group of Budweiser and PL converge?
By regular interactions with consumers and active social listening, we know that football is a key passion point of our consumers. The excitement around the sport has grown significantly over the years and this presented us a massive opportunity to engage with our consumers through sports associations that are meaningful to them and also share the passion we have for football with them. Considering our long-term association with the sport as the official partners of the FIFA World Cup and several football tournaments across the globe, it was only natural for us to take it to the next level with our partnerships with Premier League and La Liga which enjoy a growing fan following all over the world, especially in India.
With an opportunity to have a significant reach and visibility, how do you plan to gain maximum value out of this association? What kind of returns are you expecting?
Through our association with Premier League, we have been passionately determined to craft exceptional experientials for the Indian football fans. It is our belief that if sporting fans can be gratified through all the relevant touchpoints and provide for a stimulating and highly engaging experience– then we have not only retained a fan but earned their loyalty with a promise that they will keep coming back for more!
Budweiser is known to initiate distinct and notable campaigns around football. What can we expect more around this partnership?
Our recent campaign with Budweiser 0.0, our non-alcohol beer, and Sergio Ramos, captain of the Spanish national football team and Real Madrid, received widespread appreciation from fans here for celebrating Ramos’ stand-out career as the most capped player ever for Spain and, in turn, inspiring our consumers to step up and taste greatness. The latest ‘Be A King’ campaign celebrates Ramos’ journey to truly becoming one of the footballing greats by using the meaning and symbolism of his tattoos to showcase his achievements. In addition, there will also be ongoing digital extensions available across social platforms, including@ BudFootball to keep fans engaged with the kings of the game both on and off the pitch. We will also offer football fans a taste of the sport with largescale activations and on-ground screenings across key markets. Throughout the season, we will host exclusive fan parks in different cities, taking the match viewing experience up a notch through engaging, interactive activities and contests set in an electric atmosphere. The iconic Premier League trophy will be also showcased here. On our digital platforms and through our partners, we will also curate exclusive content to celebrate the Kings of the game, both on and off the field. We are also giving consumers a chance to win a chance to watch a Premier League game in England when they buy a Budweiser. Through this entire gamut of curated experiences, online and on-ground, our aim is to be an integral part of their football experience and celebrate the spirit of the game together.
Since the popularity of football has been manifolding year-on- year, what future plans does Budweiser have to support and leverage the game?
Through our multi-year partnerships with the FIFA World Cup, Premier League, and La Liga, we will continue to champion immersive experiences around the sport through partnerships, digital content, and innovations.