MiB: Marketing Beer during a Pandemic

How do you market beer in the midst of a pandemic lockdown? What do you do when sporting events get cancelled, and bars and restaurants were closed down. Oh, and one of your largest brands is called “Corona.”

That was the challenge facing Pedro Earp, Chief Marketing Officer at AB InBev. The world’s leading brewer sells about one quarter of all beer around in the world beer; their brands include Budweiser, Corona, Stella, Becks, Hoegarden, Modela, and 100s others.

For Corona, it was easy: stop marketing and advertising for a while. For their other brands, the trick was to not think about selling beer so much as raising each brands profile and reputations. For low carb Michelob Ultra, Earp’s team created their own “work out at home” sessions under that brand. In South America, they did several livestreams with several well-known bands, garnering millions of YouTube views.

AB InBev is a major sponsor of events like the Superbowl and World Cup games. To fill the void, they partnered with Microsoft to sponsor NBA playoff games. In stadiums with no fans present, the AB InBev / Microsoft Teams partnership put virtual fans in the court side seats through cameras and video screens. Watching the games on TV, it almost appears there are fans watching from seats.

Earp also ran the company’s Venture Capital fund, ZX Ventures Officer, used by the giant company to anticipate asymmetrical challenges from startups and other competitors.

A list of his favorite books are here; A transcript of our conversation is available here.

You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras on iTunesSpotifyOvercastGoogleBloombergStitcher and Acast. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.

Be sure to check out our Masters in Business next week with Dave Portnoy, founder of Barstool Sports, now part of publicly traded Penn National Gaming. He is known for not only sports and pop culture related content, but his reviews every pizza place in NYC (“One Bite With Davey Pageviews).” When live sporting events and gambling got cancelled, he became “Davey Day Trader,”  inspiring “Army of Day Traders.”


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