Budweiser and the World Cup

Using social media intelligence to monitor a sponsorship crisis

Henry Chapman, Research and Insights Analyst


Background: Budweiser’s sponsorship

The FIFA World Cup is the world’s largest international sporting event. Large brands, seeking the global exposure the tournament can provide, have lined up to sponsor it over the years. Budweiser has sponsored the World Cup since 1986, and reportedly paid FIFA $75 million for its renewed sponsorship this year.

The 2022 World Cup is unique in that it is hosted by Qatar, a Muslim country where the public consumption of alcohol is forbidden. Given the restriction, it’s surprising that Budweiser maintained its expensive sponsorship. Qatar gave assurances that Budweiser would be sold at the event. These were dedacted two days before kickoff, when the Qatari regime banned all public consumption of alcoholic beverages at any World Cup Stadium. In this brief, we will examine the events leading up to the ban and how the ban has affected Budweiser’s brand reputation.

Image 1 - Budweiser Post Volume-1
Figure 1: Past 3 months of Budweiser Post Volume; Infegy Atlas data.

Budweiser and professional sports

Budweiser has had a long standing relationship with major sporting events. A cornerstone of their brand marketing strategy has been associating their beer with professional sports. We used Infegy Atlas’ Source Interests to analyze other subjects that Budweiser consumers were posting about online. We found that eight out of the top ten source interests were sports related. This suggests people talking about Budweiser are also very likely to be talking about sports.

Image 2 - Source Interests Tab for Budweiser
Figure 2: Table of top source Interests of posters who discuss Budweiser online; Infegy Atlas data.

Budweiser and the World Cup

The top sports interest Budweiser’s audience was likely to talk about was soccer from 2007 through the present. Budweiser posters were 6.4 times more likely to mention soccer versus the average social media user. Budweiser has invested heavily in this relationship with professional soccer. Interestingly, Budweiser’s overall post volume correlates highly with the World Cup. As previously mentioned, Budweiser has sponsored the World Cup since 1984. When looking at the our historic data (overall post volume in the social conversation around Budweiser) we can see a spike during every World Cup since 2007.

Image 3 - Budweiser and the World Cup Post Volume-1
Figure 3: Past 15 years of Budweiser Post Volume; Infegy Atlas data.

2022’s World Cup in Qatar

FIFA, the central governing body of international soccer, awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar back in 2010 amidst tremendous controversy. Qatar’s lack of infrastructure for a global sporting event of the size was the biggest cause of skepticism. Qatar brought in migrant workers en masse, thousands of whom died while building the necessary arenas, hotels, and roads. Additionally, soccer fans were confused as to how Qatar, an overwhelmingly Muslim country, would permit alcoholic beverages at World Cup matches. Alcohol, specifically beer, is a cultural icon at soccer games, so fans were expectedly perplexed at this pairing.

Image 4 - Negative Narratives Around Qatars World Cup
Figure 4: Narratives Force Graph showing negative sentiment around Qatari World Cup topics; Infegy Atlas data.

Budweiser’s brand after the ban

Budweiser has pivoted very successfully around this PR crisis: they quickly rolled-out a new marketing strategy to hype up their non-alcoholic beer, Budweiser Zero. The slogan, “Drink Wiser. Cheer Better. Hydrate Between Buds,” on a white background, instead of Budweiser’s traditional red, now adorns the stadium and concession stands. Budweiser Zero post volume just hit a three year post volume high meaning that Budweiser is getting a lot of exposure for its traditionally muted non-alcoholic offering.

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Figure 5: Past three years of Budweiser Zero Post Volume; Infegy Atlas data.

Budweiser’s pushed new branding hashtags

Immediately after the ban, Budweiser’s PR team pivoted rapidly, and pushed a new advertising campaign on Twitter called #bringhomethebud. They promised to ship millions of cans of beer to the country that won, and host a celebration there. This hashtag has performed very well since it was announced, and is the predominant reason for Budweiser’s sentiment bouncing back positively after the ban.

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Figure 6: Top Budweiser related hashtags; Infegy Atlas data.

Social intelligence and PR crises

Budweiser used a PR crisis to its full advantage. Infegy Atlas, an award-winning consumer intelligence tool, shows just how successful that pivot was. Despite Budweiser facing incredible hurdles at what is typically its highest-profile marketing and distribution event in four years, the post volume and positive sentiment around the brand has returned to its mean.

If you’re in charge of a brand in a high stakes sponsorship role, it’s vital that you have the ability to pivot, shape positive messaging, and lead social conversation amongst rapidly changing events.

Image 7 - Sentiment Around Budweiser-1
Figure 7: Budweiser’s Sentiment score over the last three months; Infegy Atlas data.

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