Hop Take: The Winner of the World Cup Is… Anheuser-Busch InBev


3 minute Read

Hop Take: The Winner of the World Cup Is… Anheuser-Busch InBev

Illustration By Danielle Grinberg

Budweiser (who else?) is the global beer sponsor of the 2018 World Cup. This means spectators the world over — an audience of over 3.2 billion — will be tuning in to four Budweiser commercials throughout the month-long tournament.

This ad campaign, called “Light Up the FIFA World Cup,” is AB InBev’s biggest yet. Bigger than the Super Bowl. Bigger than anything any beer company could ever imagine. We’re talking ads aired in 50 countries.

According to Forbes, AB InBev expects these ads to help boost its annual growth. Analysts estimate that Russia, a country that bans alcohol advertisements and whose beer sales fell 5 percent in 2017, will see a 2 to 3 percent spike in beer sales thanks to World Cup viewership. What will spectators most likely be reaching for? Budweiser and the local AB InBev-owned Klinskoye.

(Incidentally, the country is currently experiencing beer shortages.)

Beer volumes are also expected to grow in Brazil and Argentina, as well as “traditional beer drinking nations” like England and Germany. And as we covered last month, AB InBev is tightening its hold on South Africa, too.

Basically, no matter which nation wins the World Cup, AB InBev emerges victorious.

This is terrifying. While we craft beer drinkers at home bounce around in our bubble arguing about who has private equity, AB InBev is literally taking over the world.

Craft beer infighting takes the focus away from the bigger threat: Macro beer is winning on a dizzying global scale. Craft beer, be it brewed at a mom-and-pop, in multiple states, or on a nationwide scale, is still small. In my beer world, it may seem like Sierra Nevada, Samuel Adams, or Bell’s Brewery are everywhere, but macro is truly ubiquitous. To survive this world takeover, pioneering regional brands need to stop worrying about who won better funding from whom, and start thinking big picture.

Chill Out, Man: Cannabis Sales Are Not Engulfing Craft Beer

At the annual meeting of the Beer Institute last week, Jessica Lukas, vice president of consumer insights at BDS Analytics, a Boulder, Colo.-based market research firm, basically told us all to chill out. Cannabis smokers are not drinking less beer than before, as many have feared.

Some comforting data points include:

  • 72 percent of cannabis users drink alcohol.
  • 54 percent of cannabis users drink beer, more than those who don’t use cannabis.
  • 68 percent of cannabis users said their consumption of craft beer stayed the same since (legally) using cannabis.

Instead, what these consumers are giving up, Lukas says, is not beer. It’s prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

People aren’t using cannabis as a substitute for craft beer. They’re using it medicinally, in place of painkillers, and as part of a lifestyle. Just because both things make us feel good doesn’t mean they are necessarily competitive. As with beer and wine, there’s room for both at the table.

Beer Companies Are Still Not Marketing to Women

News flash: Women exist. We drink beer. You still aren’t marketing to us.

Bridget Brennan, CEO of the Female Factor consulting group and the self-professed “world’s leading authority on women consumers,” says brewing companies are behind in reaching women — way behind.

“We can’t underestimate that there has been, from a beer industry standpoint, a 150-year head start in marketing the product to guys as a guy’s product,” she said at the Beer Institute’s annual meeting in Milwaukee last week.

Marketing beer to women is still in its early days, and attracting female consumers will help boost the beer category. Over the last 20 years, beer has lost an estimated 35 million barrels (that’s 11 billion beers) to wine and spirits, Brewbound reports.

Brennan points out some interesting facts. For example, women make up to 80 percent of spending decisions, and are either spending money directly or influencing their households’ purchasing decisions.

However, I can’t help but find some of her viewpoints somewhat sexist. “When you earn the loyalty and the brand trust from women, they are the gateway to everybody else in the household and often in their social networks,” she says. Don’t men have families and social lives, too?

She also says, “The goal is to drive an emotional connection that makes women feel connected to the brand, inspired to buy, confident in their choice, and appreciated as a customer.” Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure that works for guys, too.

She even shared a personal anecdote in which a female friend recently said, “You just forget how good a beer is.” Um, I haven’t forgotten.

I tend to think a gender-neutral approach would make more sense here, but then, maybe that’s my New York liberal naïveté speaking. In any case, I’ll pick my battles. If Brennan’s agenda is to get brands to acknowledge women as breadwinners and spenders, I hope the beer industry is listening. Women are breadwinners, and should be targeted as such.

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