Twitter revealed last week that over the course of the tournament, the AB InBev lager was the most discussed brand, with 637,925, beating out Adidas, Coca-Cola, Nike and Apple.
"Our research revealed that we lagged many sponsors and non-sponsors in the share of the conversation surrounding the World Cup", vice-president Brian Perkins told Campaign. "So our campaign strategy was focused on increasing that share of conversation."
The strategy was multifaceted but each aspect of it was designed to exploit the peak moments of excitement in the tournament.
One of the key opportunities was the Budweiser Man of the Match award. "We saw the potential of Man of the Match eight years ago and took it from an in-stadium only experience and brought it online by creating a robust voting and winner amplification campaigns," Perkins said.
This year, Budweiser "reinvented" the award, he said, by using a bespoke rig to "capture the energy" of each trophy being awarded. The brand also used data insights to understand fan behaviour, he added, meaning the Man of the Match was activated on social "only when relevant to our brand".
The trophy did also illustrate the risks involved in sponsorship for any alcohol brand, though, when Egypt’s goalie Mohamed el Shennawy refused the award after his side’s match against Uruguay due to his Muslim faith.
Egypt goalkeeper, @Melshenawy refused to accept the Man of the Match award after the game against Uruguay because it's sponsored by Budweiser, an alcohol company. #principled #imaan #respect ???? pic.twitter.com/sE4YjnOe1F— Muslim Footballers (@TheAMF) June 18, 2018
Another theme was the use of technology that responded to fans’ cheers, augmenting moments of maximum excitement. This included the creation of Red Light Cups, billed as the first noise-activated cups, which were distributed at World Cup stadiums and at Budweiser viewing events worldwide.
The cups were used to create content including "Cheer for beer" and "Don’t light it up", both created by Lucky Generals. There were also vibrating versions aimed at blind fans, and a noise-activated lens for Snapchat.
"We understand the digital behavior of football fans and our strategy was to meet consumers where conversations were already taking place through a mobile-first strategy across multiple social platforms, including Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter," Perkins said.
Making everything happen meant "leveraging partners worldwide to ensure that we were able to activate in real-time across multiple time zones," Perkins said. "This included bringing our real-time global operations to one location in Russia to leverage insights into the digital behavior of football fans.
"We had a team on the ground in Moscow operating 24/7 including social listening to capture consumer insights, football expertise from partner publishers, creative and production teams, and media buying. We also set up other satellite teams around the world to support and offer regional expertise in Shanghai, London and New York."
AB InBev reported a strong performance for Budweiser in its results for the first half of 2018, released today, with sales up 4.1% globally, but up 10.1% after excluding the US, where it is in decline after dominating beer sales for years. The business as a whole recorded organic revenue growth of 4.7% year-on-year.
In the UK, meanwhile, Budweiser has become the second biggest-selling beer brand in shops, after Stella Artois, also owned by AB InBev.
This article first appeared on PRWeek sister title Campaign