Shreyas Kulkarni

Budweiser India cracks open its FIFA World Cup strategy

VP of marketing Vineet Sharma talks about whom they’re focusing on, and which product sells more, among other things.

Football is a quick sport. 15 minutes of pre-match punditry, 45 minutes of non-stop action, a half-time interval of expert talk and a few ads, 45-minutes of running again, whistle, post-match opinion… Boom, you’re done.

Unlike cricket, football does not leave much room for advertisers during the match. It is then not surprising to hear Vineet Sharma say, “Budweiser will focus on the pre-and post-match time.” He is the vice president, marketing, South Asia, AB InBev (Budweiser’s parent company).

Founded in 1876, the beer giant along with siblings Stella Artois and Corona delivered 22.9% revenue growth for parent AB InBev in 2021. It is present in nearly 50 countries.

With the FIFA Men's World Cup kicking off in two days (20 November), Sharma’s primary role today is to amplify the event in India and make sure consumers, regardless of where they watch the games, have a Budweiser “not just in their minds, but in their hands too.”

Vineet Sharma
Vineet Sharma

India will watch the World Cup on TV where the matches will be broadcast on Sports18 and will stream on Jio Cinema. Viewers will glimpse the Budweiser branding on the perimeter boards.

Live screenings will happen at pubs and bars and hotels as well as malls and even airports. Budweiser India’s primary football fans come from metros like Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore but the brand considers the “Northeast, West Bengal, Goa, and Kerala as huge markets.”

One of the ways Budweiser will drive in-home consumption during the World Cup is through the right visibility, promotion, and offers at retail outlets. When someone goes to buy a beer for the evening’s match, “he or she would have decided they will buy a Budweiser.”

During the matches, the brand aims to reach consumers and even teetotallers via social media. It will rope in influencers, maybe celebrities, to promote itself. Another promotion around the World Cup is a documentary which will illustrate why India did not play in the 1950 World Cup despite qualifying for it. 

There are many reasons thrown around as to why India did not play. From not having the right footwear to prioritising the Olympics over the World Cup then being held in Brazil, nobody has a clear answer. This documentary will.

Sharma mentions the beer company is building its non-alcoholic variant 0.0 from scratch. “Our recent launches be it energy drinks or whiskey, all of them have a high-energy nightlife occasion and that makes a strong brand. Whether you are a beer, whiskey, or 0.0 consumer, we have an opportunity for you.”

The beer giant, for 35 years, has sponsored the beautiful game, and in what now seems customary, has released a global campaign to kick off one of the most popular sporting events on this planet; FIFA, the sport’s governing body, says 3.572 billion people watched the 2018 edition held in Russia.

Budweiser India cracks open its FIFA World Cup strategy

An ET Prime report from 2018 cited BARC India, a television viewership rating agency, that said total viewership for the 64 matches was at 231 million impressions.

For starters, the brand, 100 days before the event’s kick-off, placed a huge QR code in the middle of Mumbai Football Arena for its campaign film The Drop.

After scanning it, curious folks were sent to secret locations where Budweiser would drop red boxes; they contained exclusive FIFA merchandise, memorabilia signed by Messi, the official football of the FIFA World Cup, access to BudX events, and limited-edition Budweiser headphones.

Out of all the people who’d scanned the QR codes and registered for The Drop, Budweiser sent 100 people invites to an exclusive event at Antisocial, a pub in Mumbai. Five of the 100 won a golden ticket and one of the five would fly to Qatar to watch a match live. All 100 did receive exclusive goodies.

“We wanted to have a very strong narrative towards taking these Indian fans and make them feel special,” says Sharma who reveals one of the ways it will do so is through the BudX, a hotel takeover filled with lots of premium activities.

Budweiser has an aggressive presence at music festivals too, some of them being Supersonic, Lollapalooza, and Sensation. It is easy for the brand to target football fans here because music is another one of their favourite passions.

Who is buying what

When it comes live events, the 320ml Budweiser pack (can) is the common choice for consumers. In off-trade i.e. retail stores where you only buy alcohol and not drink there, which brings 70-75% of Budweiser’s business India, the 650ml big bottle counts as the most-selling item.

Budweiser is focusing its energies on Tier I and II regions and feels the taboo associated with alcohol consumption isn’t there seeing the young generations.

Speaking about the Tier II regions, Sharma says they are going through a “premiumisation trend, people have money in their pockets and want to spend on good quality products.”

Football and not just the World Cup

India, however, is not a World Cup-only nation when it comes to football viewership. The sport is the second-most watched in India with the English Premier League and La Liga (Spain’s top league) being the most watched throughout the year.

“We are partners with EPL and La Liga for 4-5 years,” says Sharma and states “they want to be the beer of choice.” Budweiser is working on creating content and working with football-watching communities to propel the viewing experience at pubs and bars.

“We don't have a once-in-a-four-year association with football fans,” says Sharma.

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