World Cup organizers reverse alcohol policy, throwing wrench in AB InBev’s plans

by Anna Munhin Nov 18, 2022 News
World Cup organizers reverse alcohol policy, throwing wrench in AB InBev’s plans
  • Qatar has banned beer sales at World Cup stadiums in a last-minute pivot, per a statement from soccer governing body FIFA
  • Anheuser-Busch InBev, a major sponsor of the event, can continue selling its Budweiser Zero non-alcoholic beer. But core offering Budweiser is impacted, as are planned marketing activations for the global soccer tournament, the company confirmed to Marketing Dive.
  • The decision from the host country arrives just two days before kick-off and has already drawn pushback on social media, creating a potentially sour atmosphere for an occasion where brands are trying to stoke excitement. 

Just days before the World Cup begins, there is a marketing opportunity for the company. According to reports, the owner of the beer company pays $75 million for World Cup sponsorship and sales rights and has a relationship with the sport's governing body.

The spokesman said that they look forward to their activations of the World Cup campaigns around the world. Due to circumstances beyond our control, some of the planned stadium activations can't proceed.

The beer category was always going to be a challenge because of the Muslim host country's strict restrictions on alcohol. In September, organizers put in place a policy that allowed alcohol sales at select fan zones and stations. The leniency toward booze appeared to have waned recently.

The New York Times reported earlier this week that Budweiser had been ordered to move some of its outlets. Stadiums are off limits now. According to media reports, the official account of the beer company replied to the news with a "Well, this is awkward" The post was taken down.

A decision has been made to focus the sale of alcoholic beverages on the FIFA Fan Festival, other fan destinations and licensed venues. The tournament organizers appreciated the understanding and continuous support of the company during the event.

Statement on beer sales at #WorldCup stadiums ????️ on behalf of FIFA and Host Country ????????:

— FIFA Media (@fifamedia) November 18, 2022

Since it was announced in 2010 that it would host the World Cup, the country has come under fire for its human rights abuses, corruption and criminalization of homosexuality.

In order to drum up enthusiasm for the event, the company has enacted an extensive marketing campaign. There have been special beer packaging and commercials for Lionel Messi and other soccer players in the World Cup. Over 100 creators and artists are part of the new marketing initiative. Some partners are being flown to the Middle East to create content.

Sara Karlovitch made a contribution.