What is Bud Zero, the only beer Budweiser can sell at the World Cup?

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In a surprising reversal, Qatar announced a ban on alcoholic beer in the eight stadiums hosting the World Cup. That leaves fans with only one “beer” choice – albeit one that’s not alcoholized.

Football fans can still purchase Bud Zero, a non-alcoholic lager that Anheuser-Busch says tastes similar to its top-selling alcoholic beverage.

A serving of Bud Zero has 0 grams of sugar and 50 calories. The beer, Bud’s first-ever alcohol-free beer, was launched in the United States two years ago, targeting a growing trend of people choosing alcohol-free beers.

Non-alcoholic alternatives to hard liquor have been around for a while, but the sector has been booming lately. The non-alcoholic trend started a year or two before the pandemic and has continued to grow rapidly. Demand for non-alcoholic alternatives has largely been driven by younger consumers.

Qatar is a Muslim country that is considered very conservative and strictly regulates the sale and consumption of alcohol. In September, officials said ticketed fans could buy alcoholic beer three hours before kick-off and an hour after the final whistle, but not during the game.

“Following discussions between the authorities of the host country and FIFA, it was decided to focus sales of alcoholic beverages at the FIFA Fan Festival, other fan destinations and licensed venues, and to expand beer outlets from around the stadium for the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar remove it,” FIFA, football’s governing body, said in a statement on Friday.

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FIFA noted that the decision will have “no impact” on Bud Zero sales.

Budweiser tweeted, “Well that’s awkward,” though the social media post was quickly deleted.

“As a partner of FIFA for over three decades, we look forward to our activation of FIFA World Cup campaigns around the world to celebrate football with our consumers,” a spokesman for Anheuser-Busch InBev said in a statement. “Some of the planned stadium activations cannot go ahead due to circumstances beyond our control.”

It’s actually a bit awkward for AB InBev, who is a main sponsor of the World Cup and was planning to sell regular bud. Just a few days ago, reports showed how World Cup employees were moving beer tents to less visible areas of stadiums.

AB InBev paid $75 million for the sponsorship, according to multiple reports. So the decision takes a small hit to their marketing plans as the decision dramatically reduces their exposure to thousands of fans at the World Cup. Arguably the larger part – the TV commercials starring football kings Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr. – will not be affected.

“Qatar’s decision to ban all alcohol on-site just days before the start of the FIFA World Cup creates an illusion that FIFA is not in control of its own tournament and risks depriving Budweiser – a key sponsor and long-term partner the government – ​​offending bodies,” said Conrad Wiacek, head of sports analysis at GlobalData, in an email.

The decision could have implications for the future, Wiacek said, noting that Budweiser’s partnership with the World Cup will expire after this year’s event.

“However, Budweiser will be cautious about cutting his bridges with the governing body as the US 2026 tournament is held in high esteem. Going elsewhere would open up opportunities for other alcohol brands as a result,” he said.

The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 starts on Sunday and lasts until December 18th.

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