Raahil Chopra
Nov 21, 2022

Qatar's time-zone makes it conducive for Budweiser consumption in India: Vineet Sharma

The VP, marketing - South Asia, AB InBev, explains why he expects consumption to increase during the tournament, the recent foray into the whiskey category and more.

Qatar's time-zone makes it conducive for Budweiser consumption in India: Vineet Sharma
Budweiser kickstarted its World Cup campaign in August this year with 'The Drop'. The official partners of FIFA offered consumers to win tickets to matches at this year's tournament before releasing its official film 'Yours to Take' in September which featured Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr and Raheem Sterling. 
Now, with the tournament about to kickoff, Budweiser is looking to utilise the favourable kick-off time for Indian fans through a series of associations. 
We caught up with Vineet Sharma, VP, marketing - South Asia, AB InBev, to learn more about the campaign and also about its recent foray into the whiskey market.
Edited excerpts:
How has the partnership with the FIFA World Cup been leveraged globally and in India?
Our association with the FIFA World Cup dates back to 1986 and it’s been extremely successful.
If you look at the last two years and the Covid induced lockdowns due to which people were in their homes it was almost like the world had slowed down. People wanted to do things but weren’t able to. There were personal losses too and it wasn’t the right time to celebrate.
This campaign is talking about the same. Whatever the hurdles that life throws us and the journey that we want to take is just one step away. This feeling of anticipation and determination is what a lot of players feel when they are entering the ground. They get the butterfly in the tummy moment while walking out of the tunnel and that’s what we feel too when we’re going out. We were nervous sitting at our homes. This campaign is a beautiful celebration of getting people to come out and enjoy the world. It’s that time of the year when everyone comes out. We see the original football fans enjoy the tournament and also see new fans emerge and become fans of teams competing at the tournament.
We kickstarted the campaign through a ’100 day countdown’ across five key cities which included Mumbai. This was a chance we gave people to travel to Qatar and watch the tournament. It was a great success for us and became a conversational topic. We had footballers Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr and Raheem Sterling as the ambassadors of the campaign who gave out their stories of how they grabbed opportunities in life to become successful.
We also worked with Lil Baby, the Grammy Award winner for a track for the tournament. It’s a collaborative effort and we’re shooting the music video during the tournament.
From an India-centric perspective, we are trying to document a unique story about the sport. India qualified for the FIFA World Cup in the 1950s but never went there. We are trying to chronicle that and also mention how the love for the sport has seen its ups and downs in the country.
We’re also working with people from different communities – sports, entertainment and music to show how they are using today’s moment to overcome their challenges and achieve greatness.
We are also looking at consumer promotions, visibility at outlets where people are going to watch matches and also taking key influencers to the W Hotel in Doha. We’ve taken over the hotel for amazing parties and screenings.
During the World Cup, will the film be on air on Sports18 (the official broadcaster of the tournament in India)? What else will you be doing during the tournament to leverage that association?
We’re in talks with Sports18. 
But we are present on the field and have advertising boards on-ground during the tournament, so we’ll have that visibility. This year, Budweiser might not have the fan shots because of the restrictions on alcohol in the country, but we’ll still have a lot of media presence organically.
We’re using the 360-approach and want to reach out to the consumer whether they’re watching the match during those 90-minutes, and before or after the game too. We’re not worried about only advertising on-air during the tournament and we don’t want to be the most-advertised brand. We want to talk to our fans in different ways. Fans talk about football and follow different communities and we want to partner with them. We want to have the right content and the right influencers talking about the tournament.
A couple of days ago some reports indicated that Qatari rulers wanted alcohol to be less prominent than what was first permitted. How is Budweiser approaching this?
The brand along with FIFA has been working with the Qatari authorities. We will be respecting the laws of the land. The fans that are visiting should also be aware of the local customs and compliances. It’s not different for the brands as well.
Yes, there have been a few changes recently, but we will continue to obey the law of the land. There are no changes in plans.
We also have the non-alcoholic variant, Budweiser 0.0, which will be offered to our consumers as well.
We are seeing more Indian brands - Amul and Byju's specifically partnering with the tournament... Is it because it's being hosted closer to home or it's because the sport has evolved and marketers are seeing this as a way of reaching out to the Indian consumer? The time-zone for Budweiser would be ideal…
The category consumption increases in the evening and the matches are played then, so the time-zone is ideal for us and the bars. It’s a match made in heaven for us.
Yes, India’s growing love for football is seeing more brands wanting to partner with it. It’s the second largest watched sport after cricket. There are fans in India who don’t just love the sport but love the players and teams as well. We estimate the viewership for this year’s tournament to be 300 million, which will be double of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. That’s a massive number. We’re seeing a resurgence of football in the country. It’s not just the tier one towns, but tier two also seeing a growth in following.
Moving from the football sponsorship to the recent launch of Magnum Double Barrel. How did that come about? What's the idea behind this? 
We want to make sure that we are answering the trends. Gen Z consumers have shown us that they love to experiment and want to try out new things. They want to change the old goals and experiment with drinks and flavours too.
We believe the contrary and think that whiskey drinkers seem to have their preferences set with set brands…
Yes, the older consumer is set with choice.
It’s about the consumer before category. Young India wants to experiment and they inspired us. We’re seeing multiple styles of alcohol that have come about in the last four-five years and covid accelerated their adoption.
Secondly, India is one of the biggest spirit markets in the world. In terms of whiskey consumption, it is the biggest market and 10% of the global consumption comes from the country. The premium branded whiskey market is small but is the fastest-growing segment in the country. The last couple of years has seen 40-45% growth for this segment. The brands in this segment are in the scotch world. We are a quintessential American brand that has found success in India. We have created a new world for the Indian palette. Corn whiskey is the base of the product which is American and the single malt is made in India.
The retail atmosphere in India is amazing too at this moment. This can let brands experiment.
So will Gen Z be your TG? 
Budweiser has traditionally been for young people who want to seize the opportunity. That’s what the brand is about and so will this whiskey. So, yes we talk to a lot of young people. We want to reach out to people who want to drink whiskey in a new way. We want to offer a unique point-of-view for our customers.
Other than the film, how are you looking to market this?
The film is one aspect. We have learnt that the brand has to be built around trade and their confidence is required. Winning the consumers in that space is extremely important for us. This is where I first want to win and the response in the first two-three weeks has been good.
We will be partnering with influencers for the right content for this too.
How is this priced and who would be your competition in the Indian market?
We are in the range of Rs 2,500. But price changes from market-to-market because of the taxation structure.


Campaign India

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