SHANGHAI (AdAgeChina.com) -- Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB-InBev) has launched its largest marketing campaign yet in China for its flagship brand Budweiser, called "Bud Music Kingdom."
AB-InBev has partnered to do a series of concerts through mid-December with a number of Chinese pop stars. The concert tour will run alongside a singing contest aimed at Chinese beer drinkers aged 18 to 29. It is expected to attract about 200,000 music fans.
Budweiser has already used music as a platform to communicate with young consumers in China, said Rex Wang, AB-InBev's Shanghai-based vice executive officer in charge of marketing and new products in the mainland.
Last summer, for example, the company organized a singing contest in southern China using below-the-line marketing, minimal advertising and no digital support.
"The result was quite good," said Vivian Yeh, AB-InBev's Shanghai-based new media manager in China, prompting the company to create a national program with heavy use of online and offline interaction.
The "Bud Music Kingdom" promotion includes nine national "emperor" concerts featuring different pop stars like Taiwanese rockers David Tao and Chang Chen-yue, and Eason Chan, one of the leading Cantopop stars in Hong Kong.
Alongside the celebrity concerts, AB-InBev has organized a "King of karaoke" contest. Consumers are invited to visit the campaign site www.bud.cn/kok to apply for the competition.
The winner will receive the use of a BMW 120i for one year as well as an opportunity to sing with David Tao, known as China's "King of rock," at a concert in Beijing on Sept. 23. About 20,000 wannabe pop stars from 14 Chinese cities are expected to take part in the contest, according to Ms. Yeh. Other prizes include stacks of autographed concert tickets and Budweiser merchandise.
AB-InBev has organized dozens of music fan activities around the celebrity tour, including beer gardens at concert sites. Web visitors are invited to build a personal space on Bud.cn by uploading photos and videos. They can also visit a music site, www.bud.cn/kok/game, on the Chinese portal Sina.com created in partnership with AB-InBev, where they can play virtual music games. The campaign, which also includes a Sina Blog Widget and a mobile Sina WAP site, is expected to attract about 3 million web surfers.
Zenith Media handled media planning and buying. Visuals, the web site and a TV commercial were developed by Hong Kong production house Image Boutique.
The competition, running through the end of September, was announced on June 14, a little over a week after AB-InBev finalized a deal to sell its remaining minority share in one of the mainland's biggest breweries, Tsingtao Beer.
On June 5, AB-InBev sold 7% of Tsingtao for $235 million to Chen Fashu, a Chinese national and private investor. In May, AB-InBev sold a 19.9% stake in Tsingtao to Asahi Brewers for $667 million.
AB-InBev is selling off a handful of assets globally to pay down debt from last year's acquistion by InBev of Anheuser-Busch for $52 billion. The Tsingtao sale will also please China's Ministry of Commerce, which has limited AB-InBev's future acquisitions in China on anti-monopoly grounds and barred it from increasing existing stakes in Chinese brewers to preserve competition.
But AB-InBev already has plenty of competition in China from dozens of imported and local brands such as Snow. Growth is particularly strong among local brands, which sell for about 50 cents per liter, well below prices commanded for premium brands and imported beers.
Brewed by SABMiller and its Chinese partner China Resources Enterprises, Snow's sales volume in 2008 topped 19%, putting it head of Bud Light and Budweiser. The top six beer brands in China by volume are Snow, Bud Light (Dry and Ice), Budweiser, ABInBev's Brazilian beer Skol, Modelo's Mexican beer Corona, and Heineken, according to beer market specialists Plato Logic.
China is already the world's largest beer market by volume and is still growing fast. Chinese drink about 28 liters per person per year, far less than many other countries like the U.K. (100 liters) and Japan (70 liters).
Return to the AdAgeChina home page here