On November 18, just two days before the start of the tournament, FIFA announced it was changing its policy to accommodate the Qatari government’s decision to ban all alcohol in each of the eight stadiums.
In a completely sudden turn of events, fans who were hoping for a taste of Budweiser within the ticketed perimeter of each stadium, won’t be able to do so. Budweiser, the product of the world's largest brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev, was set to be the only alcoholic beer sold within the perimeter surrounding each of the eight stadiums. During the four-week event, fans were initially allowed to buy alcohol three hours before and one hour after each game. But this all changed with FIFA’s confirmation of the alcohol ban.
"Well, this is awkward," tweeted Budweiser, one of the official major sponsors of the event. The tweet was later deleted.
While “awkward,” the decision to ban alcoholic beverages isn’t entirely unexpected. Qatar 2022 is the first World Cup held in a conservative Muslim country, where alcohol is mostly prohibited with few exceptions. However, guests in corporate areas of stadiums at the tournament will still be able to purchase alcohol.
As for Budweiser’s stock that was to be sold at the stadiums, the company took a picture of it just sitting in warehouses on Saturday, and offered it up to the country that wins the tournament.
"New Day, New Tweet. Winning Country gets the Buds. Who will get them?" Budweiser tweeted.
New Day, New Tweet. Winning Country gets the Buds. Who will get them? pic.twitter.com/Vv2YFxIZa1— Budweiser (@Budweiser) November 19, 2022
The World Cup is an event that, traditionally, boosts beer sales globally and Anheuser-Busch InBev still stands to profit from the tournament. The company has launched its most extensive marketing campaign to date which includes various creative ads, spanning more than 70 markets and over 100 countries. According to the brewer, it’s the customer sitting at home or at a bar with a beer in hand that matters the most, so its marketing efforts haven’t been completely derailed.
"The stadium sales themselves are a relatively small component of this," said Bernstein beverage analyst Trevor Stirling. "In terms of volumes of brands, it's about the global television audience and global activations."
While Anheuser-Busch InBev is probably fine, the last-minute change likely hasn’t been pleasant. With more time, they could have replaced regular Budweiser with its non-alcoholic variant and still bank on the stadium sales.
FIFA said it attempted to negotiate with the government, but ultimately played the whole thing down and claimed the decision was mutual.
"We tried until the end to see whether it was possible," said FIFA president Gianni Infantino. "If for three hours a day you cannot drink a beer, you will survive. Maybe there is a reason why in France, in Spain, in Scotland, alcohol is banned in stadiums. Maybe they are more intelligent than us, having thought maybe we should be doing that."