Beer fuels Brazil's World Cup fever
Brahma Selecao Especial was created especially for the World Cup and is made with barley sown from the national training pitch in Rio, Granja Comary. (Photo from Brahma)
Published Sunday, June 1, 2014 11:06AM EDT
RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) -- Beer and football make a powerful team in Brazil which is bracing for a drinking bonanza when it hosts the World Cup.
The passion for football is well-known -- it has won the World Cup five times.
Brazil is also the world's third largest beer producer -- more than 13 billion litres of the stuff in 2013. Such is the country's love of the beverage that you can even buy beer-flavored ice cream.
When the sun is baking the sidewalks off Copacabana beach, the first reaction seems to be to order a beer that Brazilians always say arrives "stupidly" cold.
A recent survey commissioned by brewing giant Ambev, the country's largest company by market value, asked Brazilians to list their national passions. Seventy-seven per cent named football; 35 per cent said beer.
Now brewers are anticipating a beer boom during the World Cup Brazil will host from June 12 to July 13.
A study released this month by Nielsen and Kantar Worldpanel, commissioned by the Sao Paulo Supermarkets Association, forecast a 37% increase in beer consumption during the World Cup and total sales of 1.8 billion reals ($816 million) during the four weeks.
During the 2010 World Cup, beer sales in Brazil increased 15%.
As it is favorite to win again and the tournament is expected to draw 600,000 foreigners, there is plenty to celebrate.
One in four beers consumed in Brazil is linked to football -- before the match, around the TV or in post-game celebration or mourning, according to a study by the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a Brazilian economics institute.
Football and beer have a powerful influence on government policy.
The government ordered a beverage-tax hike just before the World Cup, but in the face of brewers' protests President Dilma Rousseff's government shelved the increase until after the tournament.
The government also backed off a ban on alcohol sales in stadiums, imposed several years ago to tackle violence at matches.
After a drawn-out fight, football's governing body FIFA won an exemption for the World Cup, upholding its multi-million-dollar sponsorship deal with Budweiser -- a brand owned by Ab InBev, the company born from a 2004 merger between Ambev and Belgium's Interbrew.
Ambev, which has 70-per cent market share in Brazil, is seeking to deepen the links between the national drink and the national sport.
It is using the World Cup to try to convince more fans to become paying members of cash strapped domestic football clubs.
Despite Brazil's legendary players and their international success, the Brazilian league has withered in recent decades. Most clubs are still managed as they were a century ago and have huge debts.
"Brazil is among the largest economies in the world, its team is among the greatest, but its league is not, it doesn't have strong local football like Spain or Italy," Marcel Marcondes, corporate marketing manager at Ambev, told AFP.
Ambev says it wants to help clubs enroll more members and increase income so they can buy the best players.
It is not about selling more beer, said Marcondes.
Beer helps football
Ambev has partnered with more than a dozen other major companies to launch a program that offers fans discounts on more than 1,000 products and services if they become members of their favorite clubs.
In just over a year the "Movement for a Better Football" program has helped sign up more than 720,000 members at 49 clubs, bringing them $45 million. The goal is to reach three million members by 2020, which would mean an extra $542 million a year for clubs.
"Brazilian football is starting to discover the power of the fans to attract companies. The best stakeholders in the clubs are the fans, their most faithful consumers," said Erich Beting, an expert in football marketing and director of sports news site Maquina do Esporte.
Helping Brazilian clubs to keep more players at the peak of their careers, could be good for Brazilian beer and football alike.
"The stronger Brazilian football is, the more moments there are to get together with friends around football, the more beer people will drink," said Pedro Trengrouse, a United Nations consultant on the World Cup.
"That relationship between beer and football represents a series of opportunities for the sport."