SAB Miller up for the fight in home country

Budweiser - Label

via Google Images

Question: What’s SABMiller, home-grown South African brand giant which owns local beer brand Castle as well as global brands such as Peroni and Miller, going to do when Budweiser, official World Cup sponsor, steps on their South African turf during the World Cup?

I’ve pondered this before and just recently found an article addressing my question.  The 7/30/09 article, found on the South African market intelligence group website, and originally sourced through the Sunday Times, discusses this topic.


via Google Images

SAB Miller and Anheuser-Busch InBev (owner of Budweiser) have had a fairly public battle for supremacy over the last few years, recently battling it out in 2004 over ownership of Harbin Brewery in China.

But now that Budweiser is an official World Cup sponsor on SABMiller’s turf, the battle gets a bit personal.  FIFA sponsorship rules dictate that Budweiser, as an official sponsor, has sole distribution rights on all FIFA grounds – including stadiums, fan zones, etc.  This means you won’t find any other beer at the stadiums – pity, in my opinion.

You might be thinking, that’s a lot of beer to be drunk and a lot of opportunity lost for SABMiller, but here’s SAB’s response:

Ally Hewitt, marketing manager for sponsorships at SAB, said the Castle (my note: local and very popular South African beer) campaign will revolve around Bafana Bafana’s journey to 2010 and beyond. SAB, along with Absa, is a sponsor of the national soccer team.

SAB is spending “tens of millions of rand” extra on sponsorship to leverage the core properties with which Castle is associated — soccer, cricket and rugby — because of the World Cup. The group spends about R120-million a year on sport sponsorship. A new series of ads will kick off in October.

In the nine host cities, 10 stadiums and 18 fan zones, Budweiser will dominate. SAB will ensure that in the rest of the country “Castle takes pride of place”, said Hewitt.

castle bottle

via Google Images

So it appears that SABMiller, by choice or not, are going to concede the FIFA zones, but will plan to dominate the township bar, the people watching games at home, and everywhere else.  Not a bad strategy I think.

And I think potentially a wasted opportunity for Budweiser.  If they believe that sponsorship of the games and Fanzones alone will win them market share, in a market where they already have low brand awareness, they better think twice.  I imagine South Africans and international visitors will be peeved that they only have access to Budweiser, and will seek out other options the 16-18 hrs of a day they are NOT in a FIFA zone.

If Budweiser really wants to gain ground in South Africa, they better make an effort to extend a hand to the country.  Through CSR initiatives, community efforts, heavy advertising, etc – whatever it is, stadium sponsorships and pure market saturation (if the market are the FIFA zones) alone, I’m convinced, are not going to get Castle drinkers to switch labels.  What do you think?

CORRECTION: Thanks to reader Bart, I have made the correction that Anheuser-Busch is actually now known as Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Full article can be found here:

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One Response

  1. Totally interesting post. One small point, Anheuser-Busch is now Anheuser-Busch Inbev after having merged with a Belgian company. I don’t think St. Louisians were too pleased about this…

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