By James Rogers
Qatar World Cup organizers banned beer sales in the tournament's eight stadiums just two days before the event kicked off
World Cup sponsor Budweiser is promising a huge victory party for the country that wins the soccer showpiece -- using surplus brew from Qatar's surprise ban on beer in its stadiums.
"Remember when we said winning country gets the beer?" tweeted Budweiser last week. "They also get a victory celebration on us. It's gonna be big."
"Help us #BringHomeTheBud," the company added, along with an image of a branded shipping container.
Also read: 'Well, this is awkward': Qatar bans beer sales at World Cup stadiums, surprising sponsor Budweiser
In an abrupt reversal just two days before the event kicked off, Qatar World Cup organizers banned beer sales in the tournament's eight stadiums.
The Muslim nation, which is the first country in the Arab world to host the World Cup, had previously said beer sales within stadiums would be permitted. The reversal of that decision appeared to surprise Budweiser, which is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI.BT). The following day, though, the company shrugged off the beer ban and teased a new campaign tied to the tournament, promising that more details would be revealed as the tournament progressed.
Budweiser's nonalcoholic Bud Zero is still available at Qatar's eight World Cup stadiums, and alcoholic beer is available in specially designated fan zones and licensed venues such as hotels.
Read: Budweiser shrugs off Qatar stadium beer ban, tweets new World Cup campaign
Budweiser has been a World Cup partner since 1986 and reportedly paid $75 million for its latest sponsorship deal.
Brazil is one of the favorites to win the World Cup. On the day of the country's opening game against Serbia, Budweiser Brazil tweeted at Brazilian star Neymar, who also appears in the company's World Cup advertising. "It's good to remember that today your boot carries a whole lot of bud," the company wrote.
Budweiser Brazil also posted the message to its Instagram account, prompting Neymar to respond with: "If it were up to me, today is open bar."
See: Qatar World Cup controversy means sponsors are walking a tightrope
Brazil opened its World Cup campaign with a 2-0 victory thanks to goals from Richarlison, who like Neymar goes by one name. "If @richarlison97 keeps playing like this -- Brazil might just #BringHomeTheBud," tweeted Budweiser, noting that the first crate has been delivered in Rio de Janeiro.
Neymar suffered an ankle injury during the victory over Serbia and will miss Brazil's remaining two group-stage games, but he will be fit to play should the country qualify for the knockout stage. Brazil can clinch a place in the knockout stage with a victory against Switzerland on Monday. It will face Cameroon in its final group game on Dec. 2.
Separately, JPMorgan upgraded Anheuser-Busch InBev to overweight from underweight Monday, citing the company's transition to "a higher-quality top-line growth story," lifted by momentum in Latin America and upside in the U.S. and China.
Related: Qatar World Cup backlash an important moment for soccer, says ESPN's Shaka Hislop
Branding experts have warned that the Qatar World Cup poses challenges for the big-name corporations involved in the event. The treatment of migrant workers in Qatar, along with serious concerns about LGBTQ+ rights in the Gulf state, sparked a backlash long before a ball had been kicked.
Partners of FIFA, world soccer's governing body, include U.S. corporate titans Coca-Cola Co. (KO) and Visa Inc. (V), which are both involved in the Qatar event. McDonald's Corp. (MCD) is also signed up as a World Cup sponsor.
FIFA has estimated that over 1 million people will attend the tournament's 64 games. The World Cup final takes place on Dec. 18 at Lusail Stadium, situated north of the Qatari capital of Doha.
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But controversy still hangs over the tournament. In May, Amnesty International, along with 23 other organizations, wrote an open letter to FIFA President Gianni Infantino urging a "remedy for labor abuses behind the 2022 World Cup."
Amnesty says there have been thousands of migrant worker deaths since 2010, when Qatar was selected to host this year's World Cup. The number of deaths cited by Qatar is significantly lower, and the country's Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, which is overseeing the World Cup, described Amnesty's letter as inaccurate.
"Over the past two decades, Qatar has initiated an overhaul of its labor system, with extensive action taken to benefit the millions of workers in our country," said a Qatari government official in a statement emailed to MarketWatch earlier this month.
Now read:Could Qatar's 'reusable' World Cup stadium end up in Uruguay? There are some amazing plans for tournament venues
FIFA has set up grievance mechanisms with the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy. As of December 2021, workers were said to have received $22.6 million in repayment of recruitment fees, with an additional $5.7 million committed by contractors.
Fox Sports, which is owned by Fox Corp. (FOXA), the sister company of MarketWatch publisher Dow Jones's parent company, News Corp (NWSA) , holds English-language broadcast rights in the U.S. to the Qatar World Cup.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 28, 2022 09:39 ET (14:39 GMT)
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