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By The Drum, Editorial

December 5, 2023 | 7 min read

AB InBev – Budweiser and Allison have won the Travel, Leisure and Sport, PR and Grand Prix categories at The Drum Awards for Creativity. Here is the award-winning case study.

The FIFA World Cup™ is a global cultural event and unifying moment in sports, bringing football fans around the globe together in search of glory. However, the 2022 edition turned out to be unlike any other before it. Budweiser, the Official Beer of the FIFA World Cup and sponsor for over 30 years, knew it faced a particularly challenging situation when it learned only 48 hours before the start of the tournament that beer would be banned from stadiums. The team had to quickly pivot from all original plans around the large-scale sponsorship and figure out a way to turn lemons into lemonade.

Within 24 hours, the world had a front-row seat to Budweiser’s strategy of taking the high road and keeping its focus on supporting its fans. In a tweet that gained the world’s attention, Budweiser announced the winning country would “Get the Buds.” Budweiser created a completely new marketing campaign to set the tone for the tournament. #BringHomeTheBud was born, and history was made.

Idea The goals that Budweiser had for this campaign remained intact. First and foremost, to inspire fans to pursue their dreams and achieve greatness. Second, to dominate the share of voice among FIFA World Cup sponsors.

The Budweiser team reacted to information in real-time to help direct the new initiatives being created at the height of FIFA World Cup activities. To ensure that insights were based on the most current and relevant consumer sentiment, the team closely followed the news and live social conversations from around the world analyzing the Qatari government’s decision to ban alcohol sales at matches.

This real-time research allowed us to understand that media and consumers were not only supportive of Budweiser during this time but were also excited by the immediate reaction the brand had to celebrate the winning team’s country. Reacting quickly allowed Budweiser to leverage consumer feedback while the conversation was still top of mind for football fans around the world and gave consumers the opportunity to feel as if their feedback was a driving factor of the pivot. The insights helped the team to determine the immediate next steps Budweiser would take to drive awareness and engagement for #BringHomeTheBud.

Strategy Once the #BringHomeTheBud campaign was created, Budweiser’s priority was to inspire fans around the world and ultimately in the winning country. With very little time to plan and activate a new global campaign, we created an integrated multi-phased strategy that culminated with the winning team of the FIFA World Cup receiving the highly sought-after Buds. Campaign elements were crafted around key activations in each phase of the tournament, including:

Group Stages and Round of 16: Generate news around the announcement of the new campaign and its key elements, which included Budweiser-branded crate drops and initial details of the victory party for the winning country. Budweiser also used this phase to encourage fans around the world to cheer on their country with the new rallying cry of #BringHomeTheBud.

Quarter and Semi-Finals: Create social engagement with teaser tweets, influencer content and victory celebration details.

Finals and Victory Celebration: Announce final details of the victory celebration and the Budweiser giveaway.

Additionally, Budweiser incorporated elements of its initial strategy to help round out the celebration, including:

Launching Grammy Award-winning rapper Lil Baby’s single for the FIFA World Cup Official Soundtrack featuring inspirational lyrics about his own journey to greatness accompanied by a music video, the first to be filmed at a FIFA World Cup tournament. The video was directed by the renowned Director X and featured artists, musicians and creators from around the world.

Creating remixed versions of Lil Baby’s single from regionally-popularly artists Paulo Londra, L7NNON and Mano Brown, all hailing from key markets Argentina and Brazil.

Execution The team huddled with urgency to finalize messaging for the new approach, iron out logistics for the celebration party, prepare executives for media interviews and oversee the delivery of 12 mysterious red shipping containers with the new campaign hashtag to high-traffic locations in eight countries around the world.

Using media interviews was a key component of driving the campaign’s message home with consumers. The team immediately set up interviews for Budweiser’s top executives with Fast Company and The New York Times to highlight the brand’s nimble approach to the program’s shift.

Once Argentina and France were confirmed for the final match, the team parallel-pathed the development of two distinct plans in preparation for either team’s win. The brand watched the final with bated breath as Argentina clinched the FIFA World Cup champion title after a round of penalty kicks.

In the days following, the team in Argentina quickly finalized event logistics for multiple Budweiser-hosted victory celebrations across the country that were attended by more than 40,000 legal drinking-age fans. In total, the celebration lasted for 30 days, with Budweiser distributing more than 1.2M free Budweiser coupons for free limited-edition Budweiser FIFA World Cup packs, highlighting the brand’s role in the celebration.

Outcome Throughout the multi-faceted campaign, Budweiser asserted itself as the most visible and most talked-about brand among FWC sponsors. In particular, the pivot thrust Budweiser into the forefront of conversations not only among fans and viewers but also among influential media. Earned coverage carried campaign key messages, and major outlets like The New York Times positively acknowledged Budweiser’s marketing agility and share of voice dominance while Fast Company crowned the brewer as a “king of sponsors.”

Budweiser dominated the World Cup conversation, owning almost 50% of all brand sponsor mentions and 255 billion social impressions or nearly 70% of all recorded. Earned media results were similarly impressive, with more than 100,000 global media placements and over $400MM in earned media value.

In addition to the countless pieces of original content developed, the brand produced a moving tribute video for Lionel Messi. The video instantly generated an astounding 175 million+ views and was the second most watched Reel ever on the football star’s Instagram channel. The inspirational short film resonated deeply with fans as the post quickly tracked over 20M organic engagements, including more than 100K comments of admiration and congratulations for the well-deserved win.

Budweiser stayed true to its promise of making the FIFA World Cup an unforgettable experience for consumers around the world. Over 1M coupons for free beer were distributed to legal drinking-age Argentinians in the two weeks following the team’s win, and local alcohol delivery services tracked a 400% increase in orders compared to the year prior. Compared with pre-kick-off deliveries, Ze and TaDa reported a combined 34% increase in ice-cold Budweiser deliveries in the country.

Budweiser’s agile efforts proved successful and exceeded established KPIs. Brand power increased by 0.6 pts and legal drinking age participation increased by 1.0 pts. The brand grew net revenue by impressive double digits, showing the strategic pivot made a lasting impact on consumers around the world.

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