The organizers of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 decided to disallow alcoholic product sales at the arenas. However, non-alcoholic products in the identical design as the Budweiser brand products would still be available at the eight stadiums of month-long tournament – an obvious example of alibi alcohol marketing.
Meanwhile, the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar is embroiled in controversy, scandal, and charges of egregious human rights violations. But despite all this AB InBev won’t drop their sponsorship of FIFA. The beer giant has its eye on the prize, or in this case, profits.
No Beer Sales at FIFA 2022 World Cup Stadiums in Qatar
Qatar’s laws do not allow for public alcohol use. However, alcohol products are available for sale in designated hotel bars, mostly for foreigners who visit the country.
Initially, Qatar was going to hold an alcohol-free World Cup. However, this did not sit well with AB InBev-owned Budweiser which has been a FIFA World Cup sponsor for 35+ years. So, FIFA did the dirty work for the beer giant and lobbied Qatari officials to exempt the World Cup from these laws.
Therefore alcohol sales were set to be allowed during the FIFA World Cup.
Then, only one week before the opening game on November 18, 2022, the highest levels of the Qatari state ordered to move away the Budweiser-branded beer tents from near the stadiums.
Soon after, with two days to go before the World Cup kick off, it was decided that there would be no alcoholic products sold at or near the stadiums. However, non-alcoholic products were allowed for sale near the stadiums. For Budweiser, this just meant switching out their alcoholic beer products to non-alcoholic ones and changing the tents.
Furthermore, FIFA had already secured the beer giant’s profit interest by getting the World Cup exempted from Qatar’s alcohol laws.
Therefore, at the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar, alcohol products are sold at,
- the Fan Festival, and
- at stadium luxury suites reserved for FIFA officials and other wealthy guests.
Additionally, alcohol products are sold for 17 hours every day at the Qatar 2022 Arcadia Spectacular.
Human rights charges against the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar
The FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar is embroiled in controversy and scandal. The many charges include:
- Treatment of LGBTQ people in the host country where homosexuality is illegal.
- The deaths of construction workers building the stadiums.
- FIFA’s corruption scandals, including bribery charges.
Powerful multinational corporations and their flagship brands have not backed out of their FIFA sponsorship deals despite these charges and FIFA’s systemic corruption. Bloomberg interviewed 76 companies who either sponsor the FIFA World Cup 2022 or the teams that are participating.
Here’s what they found:
- None of the seven FIFA sponsors said they would change their advertising plans.
Out of the 69 sponsors of national teams,
- 20 expressed their commitment to human rights but did not disclose if or how their marketing might change.
- 13 said they would make adjustments.
The interviewed companies include Coca-Cola Co., Volkswagen AG, and Microsoft Inc.’s XBox which are all based in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, where human rights criticism has been widespread. AB InBev’s brand Budweiser has certainly not backed out of sponsoring FIFA.
Beer giant pays for World Cup worker’s graves
It is estimated that 6500 migrant workers died during the construction work for the World Cup in Qatar.
By being involved with the 2022 World Cup, FIFA and all sponsors, including AB InBev are indirectly condoning these egregious human rights violations.
Amnesty International reports that,
- South Asian laborers from Bangladesh, India, and Nepal have been asked to take $500 to $4000 in debt for the “recruitment fees,” then shipped to Qatar with the debt still standing.
- On arrival, the laborers’ passports were confiscated.
These workers had to work under inhumane conditions.
- Salaries were substantially less than promised.
- Payments were delayed.
- Residence permits were allowed to expire, putting workers at risk of jail if they left the work camp.
- Living conditions were cramped with eight or more in a room.
- Work conditions were dangerous, including the risk of heat death.
Unholy alliance: AB InBev and FIFA
AB InBev and FIFA have had an unholy alliance since 1986. The 2022 FIFA World Cup will be the tenth event sponsored by the beer giant.
The sponsorship gives the Budweiser brand unique benefits. For example: exclusive rights to sell beer at the event and marketing rights.
According to reports from 2010, AB InBev pumps between $10 million and $25 million every year into FIFA for sponsorship rights. The New York Times reports, AB InBev pays roughly $75 million every four years for the sponsorship deal.
This works well for the company because FIFA does its bidding.
FIFA even went so far as to disregard its partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) and continues to allow Budweiser to sponsor the World Cup.
AB InBev wringing the 2022 World Cup for every bit of profit possible
In-stadia beer sales at the tournament – while significant – are ultimately a small piece of the sponsorship pie and Budweiser won’t necessarily be losing sleep on the volume of sales it is going to lose in Qatar,” according to Amar Singh, Senior Vice President, MKTG, as per The Drum.Amar Singh, Senior Vice President, MKTG
Sales around the stadium are not the only way the beer giant is profiting from its FIFA World Cup sponsorship.
The beer giant is getting its money’s worth out of World Cup branded marketing. So far the following marketing stunts have been used, according to Marketing Dive:
- A QR code scavenger hunt,
- Special beer packaging,
- Commercials centered around football icons Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr., and Raheem Sterling, and
- Influencer marketing with 100 influencers, some of whom are being flown over to Qatar especially to make content for the brand on-site.
The beer brand has already found a way to get rid of the beer it got for stadium sales as well. The brand’s Twitter account tweeted on November 19 that the “Winning Country gets the Buds”.
Exploiting the situation for good PR
Mark Lloyd, strategy director for Dark Horses, says the stadium alcohol sales ban is a marketing opportunity for Budweiser.
The beer brand can just exploit the situation for their benefit to balance the negative PR for being associated with FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar in the first place.
It still gets to be a sponsor of the World Cup and reap the benefits of pitch side exposure and glossy global campaigns, but it can also cast itself as an outsider to the corruption and atrocities committed in the name of football,” said Mark Lloyd strategy director, Dark Horses, as per The Drum.Mark Lloyd, strategy director, Dark Horses
Consumers will side with Budweiser over Fifa and Qatar”, said Jonny Fordham, media relations director at CSM Sport & Entertainment, as per The Drum.Jonny Fordham, media relations director, CSM Sport & Entertainment
On top of all this, AB InBev still has the option to take FIFA to court, even though that is highly unlikely. The alcohol corporation could claim a breach of contract and/or request compensation. But chances are FIFA will compensate the beer company and all will continue as usual.
I don’t think the relationship will be drastically soured or any suing will take place – but we will see,” said James English, a partner at sports marketing agency Fuse, as per The Drum.James English, partner, Fuse
AB InBev is not going to risk its sponsorship of future FIFA World Cup tournaments. The beer giant has its eye on the 2026 World Cup, which is set to take place in Canada, the United States, and Mexico.
Big Alcohol and sports marketing
Major multinational alcohol companies market their brands by aligning with sports. By doing so alcohol companies can obtain a health and sports halo, sell more products, and maximize profits.
Sportcal reports that,
- 30 of the largest alcohol brands spend over $760m each year for over 280 active sponsorship deals in the sports industry,
- 49% of all active alcohol sponsorship deals center on football,
- Of those, 59% target European consumers, and
- The next biggest market is North America, with 20%.
Heineken‘s efforts to acquire a health and sports halo:
- The Dutch beer maker has 25 active sport sponsorship deals.
- Heineken spends $118.3 million annually on sports sponsorships.
- $21.4 million annual deal with Formula One, and a
- $10 million deal with Major League Soccer.
AB InBev‘s efforts to secure a health and sports halo:
- The American beer maker is the biggest spender on sports advertising.
- AB InBev spends $249.7 million annually on sports sponsorships.
- $230m annual NFL sponsorship (Bud Light).
For further reading
Alcohol marketing in sports is harmful
Movendi International has previously reported how alcohol marketing in sports including marketing during football and FIFA is harmful.
Bloomberg: “Qatar’s Tarnished World Cup Is Too Big for Brands to Boycott“
Aljazeera: “Beer, sport, men: Inside the ‘Holy Trinity’ of alcohol marketing“
Marketing Dive: “World Cup organizers reverse alcohol policy, throwing wrench in AB InBev’s plans“
The Drum: “Why Budweiser’s World Cup beer ban might not be all bad for the brand“
Fox News: “World Cup 2022: Budweiser finds alternative idea for beer surplus following alcohol ban“
npr: “Here are things World Cup fans are restricted from doing in Qatar“
Alcohol Justice: “Budweiser Pays for World Cup Workers’ Graves“
Yahoo News: “Qatar World Cup Bans Big Spectator Tradition In Stadium At Last Minute“