How do you market beer in the midst of a pandemic lockdown? What do you do when sporting events are cancelled, and bars and restaurants are closed? Oh, and one of your largest brands is called “Corona.” This is the challenge facing Pedro Earp, the Chief Marketing Officer at Anheuser-Busch InBev SA and this week’s guest on Masters in Business. The world’s leading brewer, whose brands include Budweiser, Corona, Stella, Becks, Hoegarden, Modela and hundreds of others, sells about 25% of all beer worldwide.
For Corona, it was easy: stop marketing and advertising for a while. For its other brands, the trick was not to think about selling beer so much as raising each brand’s profile and reputations. For low carb Michelob Ultra, Earp’s team created its own “work out at home” sessions under that brand. In South America, they did several livestreams with well-known bands, garnering millions of YouTube views.
AB InBev is a major sponsor of events such as the Super Bowl and World Cup. To fill the void, they partnered with Microsoft to sponsor NBA playoff games. In stadiums with no fans present, the AB InBev/Microsoft partnership put virtual fans in seats through cameras and video screens. On TV, it almost appears there are fans watching from the seats.
Earp also ran the AB InBev’s Venture Capital fund, ZX Ventures Officer, used by the company to anticipate challenges from startups and other competitors.