The King of Beers is ruling Qatar.
Early this year, the indications began to appear: At the Qatar Distribution Company, the only alcohol shop in the devoutly Muslim nation, a massive poster with Lionel Messi and Budweiser logos covered the door. Then, more bars and eateries in Doha began serving Budweiser on tap, a novel option in a city where Heineken draughts were the norm.
Anheuser-Busch For years, InBev Worldwide has quietly worked inside the boundaries of Qatar’s tight alcohol regulations. In a place where local Qatari officials nearly banned alcohol from tournament activities entirely, executives are now gingerly attempting to optimize the return on investment of Budweiser’s World Cup sponsorship contract.
The FIFA 2022 World Cup, which begins on November 20, has required significant preparation for the official beer. According to Peter Kraemer, AB InBev’s chief supply officer, the beverage company anticipates that more beer would be consumed during the competition than would generally be the case throughout the nation.
The company had to ship its beer by ocean freight to Qatar because there were no breweries in the area. They then had to find refrigerated warehouse space to keep their product cool during the country’s extreme heat, which reached temperatures of over 95 degrees Fahrenheit through the end of October. Trucks will be filled overnight indoors, then sent out the next day to distribute the goods to eateries and gathering places where alcohol may be served.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Kraemer said, “Beer is a perishable commodity. Therefore it’s always finest the day it’s packed.” We continuously monitor our supply chain to ensure that the beer’s flavor is preserved during shipping and the time it takes for products to reach point A to point B.
Although Qatar is not a dry nation, there are restrictions on who and where can purchase alcoholic beverages. Many restaurants are connected to upscale hotels where patrons can pay for beer, wine, and liquor. At well-known bars in West Bay, the center of the city, a pint of Budweiser costs 45–55 Qatari riyals ($12–$16).
Alcohol is perceived as a vice that is one step on a slippery slope leading to the relative hedonism of neighboring Dubai and as an asset that makes the developing tourist attraction “contemporary” compared to sober Saudi Arabia.
Foreign residents who earn more than 3,000 Qatari riyals ($816) per month can apply for a license from the alcohol monopoly, Qatar Distribution Company, a division of Qatar Airways, with written consent from their employers. A case of Budweiser costs 188 riyals ($51) at retail.
White-collar ex-pats frequently get wasted at alcohol-fueled Friday brunches, so long as they stay within the boundaries of exclusive restaurants at pricey hotels, even though public intoxication is technically illegal and is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of 3,000 riyals. Although bartenders claim they don’t serve women wearing traditional Qatari clothing, it is common to see Qatari males dining in restaurants across Doha while wearing their traditional thobes.
This deliberate dance is in danger of being entirely upended by the World Cup. Diplomats, notably those from Europe and the Americas, have expressed concern about how law enforcement will handle drunken spectators who violate public decency and decorum regulations.
Initially stating that they intended FIFA activities to be alcohol-free, Qatari organizers then changed their minds. Now, “foreign beverages” will be sold in some fanzines. Budweiser beer can be bought inside the stadium’s perimeter in designated beer areas up to three hours before and one hour after each play, but supporters can’t bring it into the stands.
Kraemer claims that AB InBev’s judgments on the amount of alcohol supplied to the nation have been based on rigorous statistical analysis. Still, his team does have a backup plan in case fans consume significantly more beer than anticipated. Packages of empty bottles and cans prepared to be filled and quickly delivered by air from a brewery in the United Kingdom have been laid aside.
The company may train as many as 6,000 city employees to serve alcohol safely and with the right amount of headspace—roughly two fingers. According to a spokesman, the virtual training program will be the biggest in AB InBev’s history.
Alcohol cannot be brought into the nation by fans. Drink-in arriving travelers’ luggage is seized by airport security, so thirsty fans will have to purchase alcohol once they arrive.
Hospitality managers claim that they ordered a lot of alcohol when QDC requested restauranteurs to order it months in advance out of concern that they could run out and not be able to resupply.
Mega foods Qatar’s Rhodri Williams, the chief development officer, said this week that QDC had delivered all 16 tonnes of alcoholic items that he and his team had requested for the three restaurants at the Intercontinental Hotel that they jointly oversee. During the competition, he anticipates that over 30,000 spectators will enter his establishment.
It’s been challenging to increase Budweiser’s visibility and fulfill a sponsorship arrangement with FIFA worth hundreds of millions of dollars over ten years without disturbing some conservative Qataris’ sensitivities or possibly jeopardizing their right to conduct business there.
Budweiser limited tweaked its logo in light of Qatar’s ban on alcohol advertising. According to Todd Allen, vice president of global marketing at Budweiser, the company will restrict explicit references to Budweiser and even Budweiser Zero to “stadiums in the outside concourse and where it is licensed to be able to be sold, in restaurants across the city.” Only Budweiser Zero or the W Hotel, which Budweiser will use for events and parties during the competition, will have branding.
The “second summer” of increased beer sales is what Budweiser is aiming for, but they don’t anticipate it to come from the Qatari market. The Budweiser logo will be displayed on multiple LED billboards behind the athletes, executives hope, making it impossible to miss.
While internal planning is crucial, marketing abroad will be even more aggressive.
According to Duncan Fox, a senior consumer products analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence, “host nation beer businesses often experience a nice volume bump, and – importantly – fans buy the premium offerings, which is good for earnings.” This time, enhancing visibility in significant beer-drinking markets like Brazil, the US, the UK, and much of Western Europe will be the primary goal. For six weeks, AB InBev will “advertise Bud to death” there.