Budweiser, the beer that made Brazil and Russia bend, but not Doha

From our Special Envoy in Doha,

The perfect publicity ambush took place twelve years ago. It was in Johannesburg, in a stadium of the 2010 World Cup, where a Netherlands-Denmark was played. 36 young women dressed in Danish colors entered the enclosure before removing their clothes to reveal a short, orange skirt, identified by fifa as belonging to a supporter pack sold by the beer brand Bavaria.

Problem, the giant Budweiser (brand of the Anheuser-Busch InBev group) is the only official brewer of the World Cup. For fear of being tapped on the fingers by his partner, the officials therefore exfiltrate the 36 agitators from the stadium. Bad calculation: by Streisand effect and according to the Hall & Partners agency, Bavaria will have generated 371% more buzz than Bud across the competition. The FIFA sponsor cringes but the long-standing relationship between the two parties – since 1986 – survives the bad joke.

Doha takes Bud the wrong way

Twelve years later looms a far more “awkward” couple feud, to quote a tweet from the Budweiser account posted Friday afternoon (then deleted). For good reason, the aggrieved brand has just learned that the organizers of the World Cup in Qatar reversed their decision to sell beer to supporters around the stadiums, all 48 hours before the opening match between Qatar and Ecuador. A source close to the organization evokes an order “from above”, the first consequence of which was the removal, at the beginning of the week, of the Bud tents from the entrance of the supporters. These were considered too visible. Red and white, that to slam, it slams.

FIFA has beautiful thank “AB InBev for its understanding” in its press release, it puts itself at odds with a sponsor who pays 75 million dollars to be a sponsor of the 2022 World Cup. The brewer took note of a decision “outside of (its ) control”, before diverting attention to external markets. “As a partner of FIFA for more than three decades, said an AB InBev representative, we look forward to the launch of our campaigns (from CDM 2022) around the world to celebrate football with our customers. »

“Alcoholic beverages are part of the CDM, so we will have them”

It’s still hard to believe that a group usually so intransigent about their status as suppliers of hooch to FIFA would simply let it go by saying that “ah, damn, this story is really bad luck, but too bad, no hard feelings friends”. Especially since AB InBev, which feared for its image when the FIFA scandal broke out in 2014, remained on board the ship now piloted by Infantino. Ship in which she won all her fights against host countries, leaving it to FIFA to do all the dirty work to change local laws.

From Brazil, she had obtained the suspension of the ban on alcohol consumption in stadiums in force since 2003, on the occasion of the 2013 Confederations Cup and the 2014 World Cup. With the great Jérôme Valcke in the role of the father bogeyman and a sentence that has aged badly.

“Alcoholic beverages are part of the FIFA World Cup, so we’re going to have them,” said the former right-hand man of Sepp Blatter. Sorry if I sound a little arrogant, but that’s something we won’t negotiate. »

From Vladimir Putin’s Russia, not the easiest country to maneuver, Budweiser received permission to promote its beer between 2014 and 2018, while it had been strictly regulated since 2012 under a vast campaign against alcoholism.

The “Bud Zero” still in the game

The victories were as much due to the support of FIFA as to the economic interests of the host countries, which did not necessarily see a negative view of the fallout linked to official sponsors. An insufficient weapon in the face of the cultural weight of Qatar and the demands of the Al-Thani family, a priori determined to enjoy its World Cup by ignoring the rules of the Old World. As for the unwavering support of the highest football body, it seems to have changed in Doha, where Gianni Infantino has taken up residence.

FIFA justified the last-minute change by a desire to “ensure that the stadiums and their surroundings will provide an enjoyable, respectable and enjoyable experience for all fans”, while confirming that the sale of “Bud Zero” (without alcohol) would not be affected by this decision. It further specifies that the sale of beer will be possible in the FIFA Fan festival area.

Not a word, however, about the dubious timing of the announcement, while Qatar had more time than anyone else to prepare for its World Cup (2010-2022). It was confirmed in early September that beer stands would open around the stadiums from three hours and up to 30 minutes before the start of matches. They were then to reopen for an hour after the final whistle.

Fans divided on the question of beer

Qatar even experimented with a fan zone during the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup, where fans were allowed to consume alcoholic beverages at a venue in suburban Doha. An experience deemed conclusive by the fans. That year, the Secretary General of the Supreme Organizing Committee of the World Cup, Hassan al-Thawadi, declared that “alcohol is not part of (the) culture (local), but hospitality is”.

It would seem that things have changed a bit, although surprisingly not all Qataris are in favor of this about-face. “The sale should be allowed because a lot of people come from all over the world and FIFA used to do that,” said one. Conversely, Marcos, Brazilian supporter crossed in the heart of the souk Waqif – and unofficial lookalike of Thiago Silva – does not seem more disturbed than that by the news.

“I am not shocked by this decision. It wouldn’t occur to me to impose my culture on another country. Here, alcohol is prohibited, that’s how it is. So I won’t drink around the stadiums unlike what we do in Brazil. And then hey, there are still the hotels. »

And… the stadiums, provided you are rich. This is undoubtedly where the greatest absurdity of this U-turn lies. The VIP areas of the stadiums always offer packages including “beers, champagne, wines and spirits” from 950 dollars and up to more than 30,000 dollars. The icing on the cake ? A bar also exists in the main media center. While for once, alcohol at work, it is rather at home that it does not pass.

Budweiser, the beer that made Brazil and Russia bend, but not Doha