Did Marcel Marcondes Have a Better World Cup than Lionel Messi?


There’s an exercise I use to help developing marketing teams build their skill set. It’s based on the experience so many of you have already gone through in real life: you carefully & thoughtfully create a campaign to achieve a number of specific brand goals, only to discover that one or more marketing channels can’t be used the way you’d planned. 

What happens to these careful plans if you can’t use social media? If you no longer have the budget for television? Radio? Signage? Thinking through these type of scenarios helps teams learn to adjust their plans on the fly, using creative thinking and professional skills to get the job done even when circumstances change.

In December, the InBev team faced the Final Boss level of this challenge: what happens to your careful plan if you can’t sell your product?

Quick Backstory if You Missed This Part

Budweiser has been the Official Beer Sponsor of the World Cup for the past 36 years. The InBev team knew there would be challenges in presenting their product in Qatar, a Muslim country that strictly controls alcohol sales. Millions of dollars and years of work went into creating a campaign to enable Budweiser to deliver the in-stadium experience World Cup fans expect while honoring Qatari rules. At the very last minute—fans had already begun to arrive in country—Qatar changed its position: no Budweiser would be able to be sold at the World Cup.

Well, This is Awkward

With one remarkably understated tweet, the InBev team acknowledged the magnitude of these rule changes. And then, with skill and speed similar to what Messi displayed on the field, InBev’s Global CMO Marcel Marcondes’s team executed a beautiful pivot that helped Budweiser achieve many, if not all, of its marketing goals.

What happens if you can’t sell your product in one country? You can award your product as a prize to the winning country. They Budweiser team created the Bring Home the Bud campaign, a multi-day over-the-top campaign that tracked branded red shipping containers around the world to Argentina, with parties in several cities including Messi’s hometown, before culminating in a massive party in Rosario where fans danced and partied on a crate painted with #BringHomeTheBud.

This strategy effectively extended the World Cup sponsorship by several days and definitely strengthened the bond between FIFA fans and Budweiser. A level of excitement was generated that probably would not have occurred if the original plan to sell beer in the stands had been permitted to go forward. It’s a masterful piece of work by the Budweiser marketing team, who pulled this all together in a very abbreviated timeframe.

It’s a good lesson for all of us. There’s no telling what the future will hold. And, any aspect of your campaign can fall apart with little to no notice. The brands that can pivot quickly are the ones that succeed in the long run.

So tell me: What would you have done if you’d been in charge of InBev at this time? What would your winning World Cup strategy have been? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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