Anheuser-Busch InBev Kicks Off Harbin Beer's Soccer Contest

Eight Chinese Soccer Players Will Go to South Africa in July To Compete in Amateur Game

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Over 14,000 Chinese submitting entries in the first few days of the contest.
Over 14,000 Chinese submitting entries in the first few days of the contest.

SHANGHAI ( -- Anheuser-Busch InBev is launching the Harbin Beer Soccer Skill Challenge, a grass roots program aimed at Chinese soccer fans to promote the local beer's connection to the FIFA World Cup.

Harbin, produced in northeastern China, is the official beer associated with the 2010 FIFA World Cup within the mainland -- making it the first China brand to sponsor the international football competition.

The FIFA World Cup alliance helps AB InBev "build Harbin's national footprint and uplift its brand equity by leveraging the partnership" while also "building the international presence of Harbin Beer," said Miguel Patricio, AB InBev's president, Asia/Pacific in Shanghai. Harbin will make its international ad debut at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

Contest features star soccer coach Ruud Gullit
Through a four-month program of online promotions and registrations on and offline games and events in 54 Chinese cities, Anheuser-Busch will select eight finalists to represent China in an amateur soccer contest in South Africa called the Global Beer Champions.

Soccer fans, both men and women, can register for the contest online or using their mobile phones, and are required to download a demonstration video in which a well-known Dutch football manager and former soccer star, Ruud Gullit, performs six soccer techniques.

To try out for the team, soccer players are required to upload a video to the campaign web site showing them performing at least one of those techniques on their own.

Visitors to the site, created by Aegis-owned Wwwins Consulting in Shanghai, can vote for their favorite players online.

The 15 players with the most votes in each city will compete in a city-level contest. Those winners will move to regional and then national competitions to pick eight finalists who will attend a professional training camp in Shanghai with Mr. Gullit, a Harbin beer ambassador. The winners will represent China in South Africa, competing against teams from Brazil, Argentina, Germany, the U.K. and other countries.

Harbin contest could attract more than 50,000 entries
Anheuser-Busch, now a subsidiary of AB InBev, hopes the China contest will attract more than 50,000 entrants and over five million online voters, said Vivian Yeh, a Shanghai-based new media manager at Anheuser-Busch InBev in China. "The feedback is very good from the market so far." More than 14,000 Chinese submitted entries through April 18, over 46,000 people have registered on the site, and 24,000 people downloaded a free training video featuring Mr. Gullit, she said.

Anheuser-Busch has been a FIFA World Cup sponsor since 1986, giving the company exclusivity in the alcoholic beverages category. That entitles Harbin to pouring rights at all FIFA World Cup venues as well as on-field signage.

Anheuser-Busch is partnering with China Central Television's sports channel, CCTV-5, to broadcast coverage of the contest as it moves around the country with a tailor-made program called "South Africa Actions."

"The partnership with CCTV can create a lot of synergies and amplify the campaign's impact, reaching billions in China," said Shanghai-based Rex Wong, AB InBev's VP-marketing and new products, China.

To promote the Soccer Skill Challenge, AB InBev is doing a World Cup-themed marketing campaign, including packaging, on-premise promotions, events at university campuses, soccer training camps and a TV spot by JWT, Shanghai. Zenith Media, Shanghai, handles media.

AB is also promoting Budweiser Genuine Draft in China
Separately, Anheuser-Busch is advertising Budweiser Genuine Draft. with ads by DDB Worldwide, Shanghai. That campaign is aimed at white-collar professionals who frequently entertain clients and colleagues in Chinese restaurants and want a "masculine" beer that's also easy to drink quickly, to "earn face," said Castro Tian, a group account director at DDB, Shanghai.

Harbin, China's oldest beer brand, and Budweiser are AB InBev's two core brands in China, the world's largest beer market.

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