Does Budweiser See the World Cup Through Rose-Tinted Pint Glasses?

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Police and protesters are clashing in Brazil—but for brands, including AB InBev's Budweiser, the party carries on.



With just slightly over two weeks until the World Cup finals, racial tension and civil unrest continue to rock Brazil, where protest groups are none-too-pleased about what they feel is a total lack of transparency in the way public funds have been spent on—some would argue shadily poured into—preparing the country for the 2014 games. (According to FIFA, rumors that the taxpayers have footed the entire bill are baseless.)

Tensions may be rising, but that hasn't stopped brands like official FIFA sponsor Budweiser from letting politics dampen their spirits.

AB InBev, the behemoth that produces Budweiser, spends multiple million of dollars for the honor of being an official World Cup sponsor, and multiple millions more on a bevy of marketing efforts—and it's 2014 “Rise as One” campaign, created in partnership with FOX Sports and Vice, is no exception. Budweiser has referred to the campaign as a “fully integrated, global content series.” A dedicated microsite (riseasone.com) features a variety of short-form documentaries, including “Budweiser Heroes,” a collection of videos recognizing ordinary soccer people who've made an impact on the sport.

On the ritzier side of things, Budweiser partnered with a five-star hotel in Rio with views of Copacabana to create an exclusive experience for special VIPs, complete with rooftop parties and appearances by celebrities, musicians, and famous footballers. The entire hotel is covered in the Budweiser logo, including, of course, the bar, where guests are invited watch the games as unlimited Bud flows from the taps.

But one thing that didn't go Bud's way was the brand's attempt to reintroduce the vuvuzela, the maddeningly loud noisemaker that slowly drove everyone insane at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Bud's version was to be called the “vuvuchela,” supposedly a beer can that could be converted into an instrument. The whole thing ended up being moot, though, considering FIFA's crackdown on noisemakers in the stadiums, including the vuvuzela's near-successor the caxirola, a plastic percussion instrument filled with beads. (While surely annoying to all eardrums in the vicinity, the official reason caxirolas were banned is because it's too easy for fans to throw them at players on the field.)

In any case, the beer brand's also getting up to some interesting stuff on Twitter with its sponsorship of FIFA's Man of the Match (#ManoftheMatch) effort. In the past pundits and commentators were the ones to decide the honor, but new this year, Bud and FIFA are using Twitter to let fans can cast their votes for their favorite athlete at each game. It's a nice way to get the tweeting public involved, although as one outlet noted, “What if they've been drinking when they vote?” Very likely, considering fans are now allowed to drink in the stadiums. Although Brazil banned drinking in stadiums 11 years ago in an effort to curb alcohol-related violence, the ban has been lifted for the duration of World Cup month. Handy, since Bud's an official FIFA sponsor.

It's understandable why big brands spend big bucks on global sporting events—there's a goldmine in sales just waiting to be plucked. But what about awareness? According to a report from GlobalWebIndex, most consumers either aren't even aware who the big World Cup sponsors or mistakenly think that top brands like Nike are official sponsors when, in fact, they're not—they just have a big presence around the games. Which begs the question: Is spending millions and millions of dollars on an official World Cup sponsorship actually worth it?

That's up for the debate. But the one thing I do know: Don't come near me with one of those vuvuchelas.

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