Anheuser-Busch is preparing to become the first major sponsor to
turn to virtual ads to beat a ban on advertising alcohol at the World
Cup in France next year.
The World Cup sponsorship deal with the International Football
Federation (FIFA), provides Anheuser-Busch with the exclusive rights to
promote Budweiser on the back of the event through packaging and
merchandise as well as perimeter board signage. But French legislation,
called Loi Evin, which prevents tobacco and alcohol brands from
advertising at sports events, may stop the company achieving maximum
exposure for the brand through advertising inside football stadia.
Anheuser-Busch says it was aware of the rule but is reluctant to
surrender its association with the tournament because it addresses the
key 18- to 24-year-old target market for Budweiser. It is currently
seeking a suspension of the law.
It argues that the international nature of the event and the status of
Budweiser as the World Cup’s official beer should make the law
But its initial confidence that an exemption could be secured appears to
An appeal to the European Commission to override Loi Evin has fallen on
deaf ears and the arrival of the newly-elected socialist government in
France has meant negotiations have been set back.
Anheuser-Busch now admits that virtual advertising could provide a way
round the problem. The system creates the illusion on TV that an event
is branded with a sponsor’s ads, whereas, in reality, the perimeter ads
do not carry the offending branding.
The picture is digitally manipulated, but the advertiser needs agreement
from broadcasters and the holder of the rights to the event before
adding its virtual branding.
In theory it could provide the solution for sponsors of international
sporting events who face a tobacco or alcohol advertising ban in certain
A recent Formula 1 Grand Prix in France, in which racing teams backed by
tobacco manufacturers had to cover up branding on the cars, demonstrated
the problems that will be faced where local advertising bans are
The argument for using virtual advertising at the World Cup is
According to FIFA, Anheuser-Busch stands to lose a live audience of up
to 2.8 million spectators who will watch the 64 tournament games at
grounds if it fails to reach an agreement with the French
Crucially, it risks losing a total projected cumulative TV audience of
37 billion viewers worldwide if it then decides not to use virtual
Stephen J Burrows, president and chief operating officer at
Anheuser-Busch International, says the company is committed to getting
the most out of the World Cup sponsorship deal.
’Budweiser is and will remain a sponsor of World Cup ’98. We have been
working to find a solution to the problem we face with our sponsorship
created by Loi Evin and will continue to do so. We are a principal
sponsor of the World Cup and will continue to be in the years to come,’