SHANGHAI (AdAgeChina.com) -- AB InBev is expanding its relationship with the world's premier football tournament to raise the profile of Harbin, one of its local brands in China.
Harbin will be the official beer in China associated with the 2010 FIFA World Cup, to be played from June 11 to July 11 in South Africa.
Anheuser-Busch, now a subsidiary of AB InBev, has been a FIFA World Cup sponsor since 1986 with its Budweiser brand. That gives AB InBev rights to use the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cup tournament symbols for promotional purposes, such as packaging, point-of-sale and advertising.
Under the agreement, AB InBev has exclusivity in FIFA's alcoholic beverages category, including the company's regional beer brands. That entitles Harbin to pouring rights at all FIFA World Cup venues as well as on-field signage.
The FIFA World Cup "is the coolest, most exciting and sensational pinnacle sports [event] in the world," said Rex Wong, AB InBev's Shanghai-based VP for marketing and new products in China. The partnership "brings pride and enjoyment to millions of Chinese fans [which] is at the heart of our involvement."
AB InBev is promoting the deal with a TV spot created by JWT, Shanghai, and a digital campaign starring soccer legend Ruud Gullit, recently hired as the ambassador for Harbin's sponsorship of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Mr. Gullit will share soccer tips with Chinese football fans through a Harbin-branded digital platform developed by Aegis-owned Wwwins Consulting in Shanghai.
The campaign, running on major sites such as Sina.com, Sohu.com and Tudou.com, also has contests giving fans a chance to meet Mr. Gullit and tickets to attend the FIFA World Cup in South Africa this summer.
Two days after the digital campaign launched in the middle of last month, the site garnered 543 million impressions, three million clicks and one million page views, more than 50% above expectations, said Allen Wang, business development director at Wwwins Consulting in Shanghai.
Harbin, China's oldest beer brand, and premium brand Budweiser are AB InBev's two core brands in China, the world's largest beer market.
Both brands achieved double-digit volume growth in the mainland last year, according to the company.
Harbin is traditionally strong in northeastern China, but AB InBev is pushing the local brand nationally, especially in provinces such as Guangdong, Zhejiang and Hunan. It faces stiff competition from two other local brands, Snow Beer, owned by SABMiller and its Chinese partner China Resources Enterprises, and Tsingtao Brewery Co.
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