How does a company become the world’s largest brewer and, for at least the last two years, the world’s most dominant creative powerhouse? For AB InBev, it starts with thinking like a challenger brand.
On February 22, AB InBev — the owner of Budweiser, Stella Artois, Corona (outside the U.S.), and a huge portfolio of regional brands around the world — was named Cannes Lions 2022 Creative Marketer of the Year. According to Ad Age, “the award … honors the brewer for its body of Lion-winning work over a sustained period of time, as well as a reputation for producing brave creative and innovative marketing solutions.”
The body is significant.
Last year, AB InBev won 40 Cannes Lions including two Grand Prix, two Titanium, nine Gold, 10 Silver, and 17 Bronze. That’s an extraordinary year, no matter what business you’re in.
For challenger brands who clearly don’t enjoy the financial depth of a company with 400 beer brands and more than $46.8 billion in annual revenue, it would be easy to dismiss the brewer’s success as a matter of opportunity, resources, and scale. But that would belittle the real reason they were just named Creative Marketer of the Year.
Their thinking was extraordinary.
Thinking Big Starts With Thinking Small.
In 2021, two of AB InBev’s awards at Cannes included a pair of Grand Prix Lions for Creative excellence in eCommerce and PR. The first was for “Tienda Cerca,” a program the company created to help Latin American corner stores suffering during COVID. They didn’t just lament the impending drop in sales. They didn’t send best wishes to their partners struggling to survive without a robust online presence. Instead, AB InBev created a FREE online platform for food and drink delivery. Then they extended that platform to more than 400,000 corner stores. It was a lifeline that literally kept tens of thousands of small companies afloat.
The second Lion for PR was awarded to AB InBev for its “Contract for Change” effort to support certified organic farming. In America, becoming certified is expensive and time consuming and, not surprisingly, only 1% of U.S. farmland acreage is certified organic. For its Michelob Pure Gold product to be successful, the brewer pledged to purchase crops from farmers during their three-year transition to organic farming. “Contract for Change” provided the marketing and PR to support that effort.
It’s no surprise that AB InBev created great work. Their Budweiser work alone is legendary. What I love about their new thinking is it runs deeper than simply selling beer to thirsty consumers.