Brewer banishes Bud to crown Hasseröder
The Local

Brewer banishes Bud to crown Hasseröder

After getting their fingers burned in 2006 trying to force German football fans to crack open a Bud, international beer corporations have chosen an old East German brand as the official World Cup beer. Ben Knight charts the localization of beer marketing strategies.

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The Bild newspaper, ever forthright in protecting German national interests, described it as the “Beer Fear” of the 2006 World Cup in Germany. With typical outrage, it declared, “Watery Yank-beer in the 12 stadiums? No way.” Panic spread through the host nation when it emerged that the US beverage corporation and FIFA World Cup sponsor Anheuser Busch would only allow its official World Cup beer Budweiser to be sold at the venues. Rumours even circulated of a 1-kilometre-wide Bud-only zone around the stadiums.

In the end, it didn’t happen – Bitburger, long-term sponsor of the German national football team and proper German beer, raised objections, particularly when Budweiser attempted to shorten its name to “Bud” as the result of another legal conflict with a certain Czech brewery. This, Bitburger decided, was much too close to its marketing nickname “Bit.”

The combination of being forced to change the name of its leading brand, and then having to share its prime market with a local favourite, made the 2006 World Cup a marketing disaster for Anheuser Busch, particularly in view of the reported $40 million it had paid for the sponsorship rights.

But the international corporation has apparently learnt its lesson for South Africa 2010. Anheuser Busch was taken over by the international corporation InBev in 2008 to create the biggest brewer in the world, Anheuser Busch InBev, with a 25 percent share in the global beer market, 13 international beer brands and countless local ones.

This time, InBev has decided to use this network of local brands to handle its sponsorship deal. One of these is Hasseröder, an old East German beer from a small town in Saxony Anhalt, that has taken over from Budweiser as the official World Cup beer in Germany. But why Hasseröder? Other German beers in InBev’s portfolio include Beck’s, Franziskaner, and Löwenbräu.

Hasseröder’s official reasons give an insight into the ruthless targeting of market strategies. “We’re a proper man’s brand (90 percent of our beer is drunk by men), and we represent male friendship,” says spokeswoman Claudia Klehr. “At the same time we are among the ten most famous sports sponsors in Germany.” Hasseröder sponsors a number of different sports teams, including the Bundesliga football club Hannover 96.

Klehr declines to compare the new strategy to 2006, but she says, “Anheuser Busch InBev has found an intelligent way to use the FIFA sponsoring rights as efficiently and synergistically as possible.”

Marc-Oliver Huhnholz, spokesman for the Association of German Brewers (DBB) does not think there is a direct connection between the slap-in-the-face of 2006 and the new localised marketing plan. “Of course, companies have to judge how successful past marketing strategies were,” he says. “But I think each strategy is created anew, and I think big international companies always market products according to how they work in other places.”

But having got this caveat off his chest, Huhnholz is keen to point out how diverse and regionalized the German beer market is. “We have 1,327 breweries in Germany, producing around 5,000 beers. If you tried a different German beer every day, you wouldn’t have to start from the beginning again for 13 and a half years,” he says with relish.

“Germans love their German beer. They’ll enjoy another beer occasionally, but the emphasis always stays on German beer,” Huhnholz says. But as patriotic as German beer-drinkers are, they are also fiercely regionalist. The DBB spokesman underlines the power of local loyalty. “There is an expression here – “beer needs a home.” Germans like to drink their own beer, and if it is a local beer, and they can associate something with it, they enjoy it all the more.”

Indeed, the key to Hasseröder’s success – it is the sixth most popular beer in Germany and the undisputed no. 1 in the former East – is possibly its regional origin.

In the socialist German Democratic Republic, beer brands could only be sold in their local area, and none was allowed to dominate. But Hasseröder – brewed in the small town of Wernigerode – was the main beer in the mountainous Harz region of eastern Germany, a favourite holiday resort. As Klehr explains, “Because of the many holiday-makers that came to the Harz, a lot of outsiders found out about the beer. Hasseröder became a favourite present to bring back.”

Like many East German brands, Hasseröder struggled for a few years following the reunification, as locals flocked to try West German products. But old East German favourites soon regained their hold, and an apocryphal story tells how football and Hasseröder came together in serendipitous union for the UEFA Cup Final in Turin, Italy in 1993.

“The actual sponsor pulled out at short notice, and a truck with Hasseröder placards on its way to another event happened to be nearby,” says Klehr. “An East German beer at the UEFA cup final was a real bombshell, and a source of great pride for East German consumers.” And now Hasseröder is about to crown its career in football sponsorship, albeit in the hands of a multinational corporation.

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