In a surprise reversal, Qatar announced a ban on alcoholic beer in all eight World Cup stadiums. That leaves fans with only one “beer” option, even if it’s not booze.
Football fans will still be able to buy Bud Zero, an alcohol-free lager that Anheuser-Busch says tastes similar to its best-selling alcoholic beverage.
One serving of Bud Zero has 0 grams of sugar and 50 calories. The beer, which is Bud’s first non-alcoholic beer, was launched in the US two years ago, targeting a growing trend of people choosing non-alcoholic beers.
Non-alcoholic alternatives to booze have been around for a while, but lately the sector is booming. The alcohol-free trend started picking up a year or two before the pandemic and has continued to grow rapidly. Demand for non-alcoholic alternatives has been largely driven by younger consumers.
Qatar is a Muslim country that is considered very conservative and strictly regulates the sale and consumption of alcohol. In September, officials said ticketed fans could buy alcoholic beer three hours before kickoff and for one hour after the final whistle, but not during the game.
“Following discussions between the host country authorities and FIFA, the decision has been taken to focus the sale of alcoholic beverages on the FIFA Fan Festival, other fan destinations and licensed venues, by eliminating outlets of beer on the perimeter of the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup stadium.” FIFA, soccer’s governing body, said in a statement on Friday.
FIFA noted that the decision will have “no impact” on Bud Zero sales.
Budweiser tweeted, “Well, this is awkward,” though the social media post was quickly removed.
“As a partner of FIFA for more than three decades, we look forward to our FIFA World Cup campaign activations around the world to celebrate soccer with our consumers,” said an Anheuser-Busch spokesperson. InBev in a statement. “Some of the planned activations of the stadium cannot go ahead due to circumstances beyond our control.”
It’s actually a bit awkward for AB InBev, which is a major sponsor of the World Cup, and was planning to sell regular Bud. Just a few days ago, reports showed World Cup workers moving beer tents to less visible areas of stadiums.
AB InBev paid $75 million for the sponsorship, according to multiple reports. The decision therefore puts a bit of a wrench in their marketing plans as the decision drastically reduces their presence for thousands of fans at the World Cup. However, probably the most important part: his TV commercials with soccer royalty Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr. – will not be affected.
“Qatar’s decision to ban all alcohol on the grounds of the upcoming FIFA World Cup just days before it kicks off presents an illusion that FIFA is not in control of its own tournament and risks alienating Budweiser, a key sponsor and long-term partner of the government. body,” Conrad Wiacek, head of sports analytics at GlobalData, said in an email.
The decision could have ramifications for the future, Wiacek said, noting that Budweiser’s partnership with the World Cup expires after this year’s event.
“However, Budweiser will be wary of burning its bridges with the governing body, as the 2026 US tournament will be highly prized. Going elsewhere would open up opportunities for other alcohol brands in its wake “, he said.
The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 starts on Sunday and runs until December 18.