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Just five years after assuming a marketing role in the family business, August A. Busch IV is about to ascend to the hottest seat in beer marketing.

At 29, Mr. Busch will become VP-brand management for Anheuser-Busch, moving up from VP-Budweiser brands. He will replace Tom Sharbaugh, 49, who on March 1 becomes VP-strategic marketing and advertising at Sears, Roebuck & Co.

Losing a mentor while taking over the most prominent marketing role at A-B, Mr. Busch will be under pressure immediately, inheriting a number of decisions pressing A-B.

"Before there were things to move him on to if something didn't work. Now there is nothing to hide behind," said one former A-B executive. "It's a hell of a lot more responsibility than his father [A-B Cos. Chairman-President August A. Busch III] had at this age."

People who know and have worked with Mr. Busch de scribe him as affable and un usually open to suggestions. But outsiders credit Mr. Busch with only mixed success in his initial tenure.

"He has a mixed track rec ord," said Benj Steinman, as sociate publisher of Beer Mar keter's Insights. "Not every thing associated with him is a resounding success, but obvi ously he has the faith of senior management."

Mr. Busch's first project, Bud Dry, set a record for new beer sales in its first year but now, finishing its third year, has failed to demonstrate staying power. His current responsibility, Budweiser, continues to lose sales, but its descent hasn't been as rapid as that of some full-calorie competitors.

Despite being panned by critics, some elements of the most recent Budweiser advertising have won raves, and insiders say some of Bud's losses may be due more to pricing decisions than advertising.

Many applaud Mr. Busch's decision to lead A-B away from traditional sexy appeals to male beer drinkers and toward more restrained advertising featuring women as friends-and sometimes featuring a woman's point of view.

Though A-B's overall market share rose last year-mainly on the strength of subpremium-price Natural Light-its share of more profitable premium beer sales declined as the quick growth of Bud Light failed to make up for slippage in the cornerstone brew, Budweiser.

Sometime in the next year, A-B will likely have to decide whether Budweiser's slide requires that it seek new brand names for future growth, rather than continue extending the Bud name.

Mr. Busch must also figure out whether Ice Draft From Budweiser is enough to combat three ice beers from archrival Miller Brewing Co., headed by former A-B VP-Brand Management Jack MacDonough.

Further, he faces the considerable pricing pressures brought on by flat sales in the beer market.

Mr. Busch's problems may be complicated by the departure of a series of key A-B executives in recent years.

As part of the changes involving Mr. Busch, A-B said Bob Lachky, a former DDB Needham Worldwide executive who had been director of Bud Light marketing, moved to Budweiser. James M. Schumacker becomes director of Bud Light from senior brand manager for Michelob. Michael J. Owens, former director of Budweiser marketing, was named VP-ethnic/geographic marketing.

For Mr. Sharbaugh, the switch to Sears reunites him with John Costello, senior exec VP-marketing, a colleague from Mr. Sharbaugh's Procter & Gamble Co. days more than 15 years ago.

"Sears is a very exciting situation," Mr. Sharbaugh. "It's a very challenging business given the magnitude of the company and the turnaround work that remains to be done." In the newly created post, he will concentrate on brand building, including developing marketing programs for new and existing private-label brands.

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