Brussels - Budweiser extended its sponsorship of the World Cup through the 2018 edition in Russia and the 2022 event in Qatar on Tuesday, confident that fans would look beyond FIFA's corruption scandal and focus on the tournaments only.
Anheuser-Busch InBev's chief marketing officer Chris Burggraeve said the global impact of the World Cup remained "phenomenal" for the world's biggest brewer and expected Budweiser to continue to enjoy the same kind of success the 2010 tournament in South Africa had created.
Tuesday's announcement was the second piece of good financial news in a week for embattled FIFA, which has been trying to stave off corruption allegations all year.
Last Friday, FIFA secured a deal worth more than $1 billion from United States broadcasters, striking World Cup deals with Fox and Telemundo for 2018-2022. Tuesday's deal with Budweiser was the first for one of the major sponsors to commit through 2022 since FIFA's scandal-ridden Congress in June. Coca Cola and Hyundai had already committed before that. Budweiser has been a FIFA sponsor since Mexico 1986 and is also on board for Brazil 2014.
On June 1, Sepp Blatter held on to his spot as president of the world body amid allegations of mismanagement and corruption, and has since said he will make more efforts to clean up the tainted sport. His only challenger Mohamed bin Hammam had to abandon his election bid and was later banned from FIFA for life following bribery allegations.
Burggraeve refused to provide any financial details of the deal beyond saying it was "a significant investment in the long-term brand building potential" of the American beer around the globe.
Even though AB InBev said it had made its concerns known to FIFA at the height of the scandal, Burggraeve said its prime concern was reaching out to consumers around the globe.
"We always take the perspective of the fans and there may have been some rumblings at some point in time," Burggraeve said in a telephone interview. In the end though, he said, "fans are focused on one thing, and one thing only, which is the next World Cup."
And that exposure is hard to beat.
FIFA says over 900 million television viewers watched at least some of the 2010 World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands in their homes, and the total likely topped a billion when adding online and public places like bars and markets.
"It is great for the brand essence. It is great for its global scale," Burggraeve said.
Beyond the global audience, Budweiser will also be eyeing the home markets of Brazil and Russia during the next two editions.
It launched Budweiser in Brazil this year and already launched it in Russia during last year's World Cup. "It has been doing very well since," Burggraeve said.
Qatar's small home market and its government aversion of alcohol is no issue for 2022 he said.
"The World Cup investment decision is done with the world in mind, not with the host country," he said.