AB InBev names new global CMO

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Pedro Earp of AB InBev
Pedro Earp of AB InBev Credit: ZX Ventures via Vimeo

Anheuser-Busch InBev is making changes at the top of its global marketing department. The beer giant is replacing Chief Marketing Officer Miguel Patricio with Pedro Earp, who has been running the brewer's global innovation unit, called ZX Ventures.

Patricio, a 20-year veteran of the brewer who spent the past six years as global CMO, will remain at the brewer and assume a new role overseeing global marketing projects and reporting directly to CEO Carlos Brito. Earp will continue to oversee ZX Ventures, while adding global CMO duties.

Earp has led New York-based ZX Ventures since it was founded in 2015 to help the brewer create new products on multiple fronts, including craft and specialty beers, e-commerce, homebrewing and retail activations.

In an interview, Earp said that ZX will still run independently from the marketing department and that the brewer will bring in someone to oversee it on a day-to-day basis. But he also suggested the two groups would begin working more closely together. "There are some things that are really working in ZX ventures. I think it's time for us to start scaling them in our core business," he said.

A graduate of the London School of Economics and a native of Brazil, Earp has spent his entire career at AB InBev, beginning in 2000 when he was a global management trainee in Latin America. He has held positions covering marketing, consumer connections and mergers and acquisitions.

Miguel Patricio
Miguel Patricio Credit: AB-InBev

Patricio, a Portuguese citizen, joined Ambev, the brewer's Latin America operation, in 1998 as VP-marketing. He went on to hold executive positions in North America and Asia Pacific before being named global CMO in 2012. He led marketing as the brewer grew international distribution of Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona in key markets such as China. Recently he oversaw AB InBev's World Cup campaign by Anomaly, hitting more than 50 countries. The brewer described it as the largest campaign in its history when measured by investment and reach.

The brewer cited positive results from the World Cup campaign on its second quarter earnings call on Thursday. Global revenue grew 4.7 percent in the second quarter, led by its three big global brands, Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona, which were up 10.1%. Revenues are still falling in the U.S., down 3.1 percent in the quarter. Bud Light and Budweiser have been falling for years in the U.S. But the company said it delivered its best quarterly market share performance in nearly four years in the U.S., citing continued growth from Michelob Ultra, as well as a lift from its Bud Light Orange line extension.

Patricio, in an interview, made a construction analogy when describing the marketing leadership changes: "You change the roof of the house when it's sunny, not when it's raining. And it's been very sunny for us."

Patricio will remain in the company's senior leadership team in his new role. One of his priorities is growing the brewer's in-house content creation capabilities. AB InBev has established content studios in Colombia and Mexico. Patricio said more studios would open in other markets, probably including the U.S. The move follows the industry trend of companies taking greater control of their marketing, which has the potential to threaten agencies. Asked about that, Patricio said "this is not to substitute agencies, this is to improve our velocity to the market."

AB InBev has long been known as a shrewd financial operator, whose growth has been fueled by acquisitions such as its $103 billion purchase of SABMiller in 2016, creating a megabrewer with a presence nearly everywhere. AB InBev bought Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo in 2013, giving it control of Corona outside the U.S. The deals earned AB InBev the reputation as a company that relies on acquisitions, not brand-building, to fuel growth. However, AB InBev under Patricio made gains in burnishing its reputation for creativity. It took home 23 lions at Cannes this year, including two Grand Prix awards.

"We are recognized as being a very, very efficient company," Patricio said. "But also we can add to that strength a very strong marketing capability. We are on the way," he added, noting the increased number of people at the top of the company with marketing backgrounds.

With Earp's promotion, AB InBev's 18-person global management team remains all male. He was already on the team in his previous role, but a slot is also reserved for the global CMO, which he now fills. The lack of diversity was cited in a February report by Sanford C. Bernstein, which noted that "all-male management teams are cutting themselves off from half the talent in the world."

"I think there is definitely an opportunity for us to be more diverse in the future," Patricio said. "We need an evolution and will have an evolution on that front."

The brewer on Thursday also announced that it was creating a new position to oversee its non-alcoholic beverages business, which accounts for more than 10% of its global volume. The job will be filled by Lucas Herscovici, who had been serving as global marketing VP of strategic functions, which includes innovation, media and insights. The company has not named his replacement for that role.

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