Global Economics

East German Brewer Wins World Cup Nod


Though InBev's Anheuser-Busch holds rights to sell beer at the 2010 soccer World Cup in South Africa, eastern German Hasser?der has grabbed a place

The 2010 World Cup is getting a taste of eastern Germany with its soccer.

For the first time in its 137-year history, Hasser?der a beer brewed in eastern Germany, and little known outside its home country, will bear the title of Germany's official beer for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

The World Cup beer title is a privilege that has been reserved for American brewing powerhouse Anheuser-Busch since 1986. The St. Louis brewer was happy to share the rights in 2010 after being acquired last year by global brewer InBev (BUD), which also owns Hasser?der, for $52 billlion.

"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the brand. I think it will be an excellent chance to grow further in Germany," Erwin Dito, marketing chief for InBev Deutschland, told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

Five Beer-Loving Guys

Taking advantage of a good situation, Hasser?der plans to launch a nationwide television, print and Internet advertising campaign in January. The TV campaign will feature five beer-loving guys, called "Die F?nf Jungs," who have appeared in previous Hasser?der ads. On the Hasser?der site, fans will be able to find all the latest scores and news about the World Cup. Hasser?der also plans to host out-door events for public viewing mostly in eastern Germany, where its core drinkers reside, Dito says.

Some lucky Hasser?der-drinking soccer fans will even get the opportunity to travel to South Africa during the World Cup and see the German team play live. Dito says the brewery plans to hold a competition to determine which fans get to go to South Africa in 2010.

To be sure, Hasser?der only gets to share the sponsorship in Germany. The World Cup's global beer sponsor is still Anheuser-Busch, InBev's Budweiser brand, known as the "King of Beers" in America. Analysts say designating a local beer as Germany's World Cup beer sponsor is smart, given Anheuser-Busch's experience as World Cup beer sponsor at the previous World Cup in 2006 in Germany.

After reportedly paying $40 million to sponsor the tournament, Anheuser-Busch, still an independent company at the time, found itself on the wrong end of vehement protests from German beer drinkers. They called the beer, which has a lighter flavor than German beer, "dishwater," and were so offended by the prospect of drinking American beer that they even set up a Web site with a picture of an American eagle, the symbol of the brewery, vomiting.

Trademark Battles

Making matters worse, Anheuser-Busch couldn't use the terms "Budweiser" or "Bud" in Germany because of legal trademark battles with Czech brewer Budweiser Budvar and German brewer Bitburger, respectively. Bitburger's popular German brew goes by the name "Bit," which is similar enough to "Bud" to fuel the conflict. Instead Budweiser in Germany goes by the name "Anheuser-Busch Bud."

Anheuser eventually relented and allowed Bitburger to be served in German stadiums alongside Budweiser during the games, albeit in unmarked cups. In return, Bitburger said the brewer could use the word "Bud" in on-field advertising.

Marc-Oliver Huhnholz, spokesman for the German Brewers Association, says Anheuser-Busch learned a valuable lesson about the German market from its experiences in 2006: Namely that "Germans really love to drink German beer. Foreign beers have very little success here," Huhnholz told SPIEGEL ONLINE. In order to crack the German market, foreign brewers are better off acquiring or partnering with German brewers such as Hasser?der, he adds.

Today as a subsidiary of InBev, Anheuser-Busch seems to agree. With a host of beers from around the world in its portfolio, including German brews Beck's, Hasser?der and Franziskaner, the combined entity, Anheuser-Busch InBev, is making the most of its FIFA sponsorship this year to get more Germans drinking its beer.

'For the Local Brand to Shine'

"We are maximizing our sponsorship in order to connect with beer drinkers. In certain markets where our global flagship brand is unavailable, or one of our local brands already has an existing football association on par with the passion of World Cup, we believe the added flexibility, such in the case of Hasser?der, allows us to further bring a truly amazing global event even closer to home," said Eelco van der Koll, Global Director of Sports & Entertainment for Anheuser-Busch InBev, in a statement to SPIEGEL ONLINE.

Dito of InBev Deutschland also sees the logic. Since Budweiser doesn't play a role in Germany, Dito says this sponsorship is "a chance for the local brand to shine."

Hasser?der was first founded in 1872 as "Zum Auerhahn" in Wernigerode, a town in the Harz region of what today is the eastern German state Saxony-Anhalt. During communist times, Hasser?der was very popular in the Harz region. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the beer became the market leader in eastern Germany. Now, Dito says, Hasser?der has its sites set on seducing western German beer drinkers.

Still, despite help from the world's most-watched sporting event, Hasser?der still has a tough road ahead in continuing to grow its volume in Germany. Germany's obsession with beer is waning. Its society is aging, and that means they are drinking less beer. Younger Germans have also begun showing a preference for cocktails. The result: Germans are now drinking 111.1 liters of beer per capita each year, down from 150.9 liters in 1976.

"The cake is always shrinking, but everyone is still trying to cut the same size piece," says Huhnholz.

Return to the World Cup 2010 Special Report

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