Anheuser-Busch InBev is changing its marketing leadership just weeks before airing several high-stakes Super Bowl ads.
Paul Chibe, the brewer's VP-marketing in the U.S since June of 2011, is stepping aside and will be replaced by Jorn Socquet, the brewer's VP of marketing in Canada since 2010.
"Paul will continue for the next few weeks to assure a smooth transition with Jorn on important marketing initiatives, such as the Super Bowl," according to an A-B InBev memo sent to wholesalers and employees. The memo stated that it was Mr. Chibe's decision to leave.
But he has been under pressure to boost Bud Light's preformance, according to industry executives. The brewer is developing a campaign for the beer that is expected to debut during the Super Bowl. The brand, which is the top-selling beer in the U.S., has been lagging, like much of the light-beer category in the U.S. Sales fell by 0.68% in the 52 weeks ending Nov. 3, according to IRI, which does not include bar and restaurant sales.
In an interview Mr. Chibe, 46, said he wanted to spend more time with his wife and two children, citing the travel rigors of his job. He said he is considering moving back to Chicago, where he lived before taking the A-B inBev job, or to California. He said the brewer was currently shooting the Super Bowl ads. "I'll see Super Bowl through and once Super Bowl is through it's kind of a natural break for a transition," he said. "I can tell you 1,000% I feel very good about what we have coming in the Super Bowl. I am very happy about where we are going to be."
Mr. Chibe, who joined A-B InBev after an 11-year stint at Wm. Wrigley Jr., oversaw multiple agency changes on Bud Light. He severed ties with DDB in 2011, ending a three-decade-long relationship. Bud Light was at McGarryBowen for a quick stint, then moved to Translation before going to BBDO in June, where it was assigned to the agency's Chicago office, known as Energy BBDO.
The shift reunited Mr. Chibe with an agency he had worked with while at Wrigley and was seen by many in the industry as his last chance to return Bud Light to the ad powerhouse it had been for much of its history. At a meeting with distributors in November, Mr. Chibe boasted that the brewer had "cracked the code" on Bud Light, although he did not show any work, according to a report at the time by Beer Marketer's Insights.
During his tenure, Mr. Chibe sought to infuse more music-themed marketing into A-B InBev's brands in an appeal to millennials. Often his partner was Steve Stoute, whose Translation agency helped land endorsement deals linking Jay Z to Budweiser and Justin Timberlake to Bud Light Platinum. The Timberlake-Platinum deal got off to a solid start in 2013 as Platinum made solid sales gains. But the deal is set to expire soon, as Platinum sales have lagged, Ad Age reported earlier today.
Most of the attention at A-B is on reviving the core Bud Light brand, and that will likely be Mr. Socquet's top charge going forward. In the memo, A-B InBev credited Mr. Socquet with helping Budweiser to become the No. 1 beer brand in Canada, while accelerating the growth of Bud Light to become the third-largest brand in Canada. Prior to his Canada role, Mr. Socquet was global director of Stella Artois, Beck's and Hoegaarden.
The memo credited Mr. Chibe with "several contributions" including "working with the teams to set new directions in social-media marketing; creating the large-scale Budweiser Made in America concert series with Jay Z; and launching the highly successful Bud Light Platinum and Rita brands, among his many achievements."