After the public backlash in Germany over Anhesuer-Busch’s being named the beer sponsor for the World Cup games, A-B eventually bowed to public pressure and worked out a compromise that was supposed to insure that a German beer would also be available at all games. The brand chosen was Bitburger, whose Bit brandname had been deemed too close to Bud so that A-B was told they couldn’t use that name in their advertising. Instead they would have to use Anheuser-Busch Bud, which doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. So a compromise was worked out. Bitburger could be sold at all World Cup games and A-B could advertise their product as simply “Bud.”
One little hitch, though, is that A-B appears to have reneged on its part of the deal. According to George Parker on AdHurl:
Interesting bit in this weeks Der Spiegel exposing the great Anheuser-Busch beer sham. Apparently in an attempt to placate the Germans, the company agreed to allow German beer to be sold alongside its Bud. But once the fans were inside the stadium… No Bitburger – The reporter was forced to drink Bud… With dreadful consequences. Seems like an incredibly bad piece of PR on the part of Anheuser-Busch. Unless some genius there thought “Oh, once they taste it, they’ll love it.” Listen Busch VI or VIII or whatever, I wouldn’t drink Bud in the US, and I certainly wouldn’t go to Germany to drink it. Dumb arrogant move!
He’s referring to a report in Der Spiegel by Marc Young:
I can now expose the great Anheuser-Busch beer sham. The US brewer bought the sole rights to sell beer in World Cup stadiums before Germany even knew it would host this summer’s tournament. But in an attempt to head off a nasty public backlash, the company cleverly agreed to allow German beer to be sold alongside its Budweiser. This was good PR, but I can report that there appeared to be no Bitburger — the German brewer Anheuser-Busch cut a deal with — to be had anywhere in the stadium. Maybe Bitburger got one stand outside near the security checks or something. But all I could find was Bud on tap.
That’s what you call a perfect strategic move to get what you want and screw everybody else. You placate everybody and difuse a potentially disasterous PR situation. Then you don’t deliver on your part of the bargain and by the time anyone figures out they’ve been had it’s too late to do anything about it. So the ads and signs all read “Bud” instead of “Anheuser-Busch Bud” but there’s still no German beer you can buy. Even if Marc Young missed it somehow, it still shows how difficult they made it even for someone making a particular point of trying to find Bitburger. And once you’re in the stadium there’s not really anything you can do except be pissed off. You can either drink Bud or nothing. A-B sure is showing the Germans — and every other nation represented at the World Cup — where the “ugly” in “ugly American” comes from. Nice job spreading goodwill. Because this isn’t just a black eye for an American corporation, it’s a black eye for America as a whole. Like it or not, America’s corporate image abroad is all most people see of us and so this skewed image of America as a whole is formed at least in part by those interactions with our corporations. When they act like … well, like corporations, they color people’s impressions of you and me, too.