I think FIFA just created a public relations disaster for Anheuser-Busch by requiring 1,000 Dutch football supporters to remove their trousers when entering an international football match.
A Dutch brewing company came up with an innovative marketing tactic of selling the orange trousers to fans once a number of beer cans had been purchased. The trousers, bright orange with a lion’s tail attached, and the symbol of the brewing company were worn by thousands of Dutch football supporters at a Ivory Coast/Netherlands game on Saturday.
FIFA thought that the bright orange trousers represented a “marketing ambush” tactic. FIFA officials blocked entry to the stadium of any Dutch fans wearing the trousers, rather than miss the game 1,000 fans took off their trousers and watched the match in their underwear.
I think the FIFA officials have lost sight of the boundaries between business and common decency. As for Anheuser-Busch, I would not want to be the PR Manager today. This sort of protection of Anheuser-Busch’s sponsorship by FIFA surely cannot be endorsed by the company, otherwise Anheuser-Busch will be remembered this World Cup as company that took 1,000 Dutchmen’s pants away from them.
FIFA might be right that the Dutch company’s marketing tactic ambushed the World Cup stadium. But in the end what matters most in marketing terms is how a company’s brand it perceived through its marketing efforts. I’ve been searching through the web this evening, and it's not looking good for Anheuser-Busch. Most comments are from Europe, and the majority of the posts are either incredulous or negative about the incident, for Anheuser-Busch:
I say "tough luck corporate sponsors", money shouldn't be able to buy the right to subject people to this kind of indignity. At the very least these people should have been offered alternative netherwear. In fact I think they should sue the sponsor who insisted on this and campaign to boycott their wares. So watch out Budweiser, I'm off Bud now. (Nouslife Blog)
Where’s all this World Cup goodwill?
… and I always thought it wasn’t the winning that was important, but the taking part (No Offence Intended)
The PR disaster that is Budweiser’s sponsorship of the World Cup gets worse (CMM News)
For the record, most media - presumably because they benefit handsomely from Budweiser's vast advertising budget - coyly refuse to tell us the identity of this Dutch upstart. The company is called Bavaria NV (thanks, localnewswatch.com, for that information) and anyone who supports the principle of competition should buy its ales. (IPKitten blog)
Before writing this story I called Anheuser-Busch, however their PR department could not be reached for comment.
Update: 6/22/06 FIFA offers orange shorts without logo.