Last Call: Anheuser-Busch Seeks $47.4 Million Deduction in 2026 FIFA World Cup Sponsorship; TTB Updates Social Media Policy; 4th Union Rejects Railroad Labor Deal

AB to Give Unsold Budweiser to World Cup Winner, Seeks Discount for 2026 Sponsorship

Last week’s decision by Qatar officials to ban alcohol sales at stadiums – two days before the first 2022 FIFA World Cup match – could impact the relationship of FIFA and beer sponsor Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB) through 2026.

AB is seeking a $47.4 million deduction in its $112 million sponsorship deal for the 2026 World Cup, Front Office Sports reported.

The more than decade-long planning of this year’s global soccer tournament has been fraught with multiple changes to the host country’s alcohol policy. While Qatar does not ban alcoholic beverages, it does severely limit where they can be purchased, strictly regulating the sale to hotel bars and other limited locations.

The final update was released last Friday, with Qatar limiting the sale of alcoholic beverages to “the FIFA Fan Festival, other fan destinations and licensed venues” outside the eight stadiums perimeters, FIFA said in a statement.

AB paid a reported $74 million to be the official beer sponsor of the 2022 World Cup and showcase its flagship Budweiser, but after last week’s decision, the company can only sell its non-alcoholic brand Budweiser Zero to fans at matches.

The 2026 World Cup will kick off in June 2026, hosted by the US, Mexico and Canada.

While AB and FIFA negotiate the fallout, Budweiser’s beer stock may not go to waste. The company posted a photo of Budweiser pallets on Twitter Saturday:

AB will host “the ultimate championship celebration” for the country that wins this year’s World Cup tournament, bringing the “celebration from the FIFA World Cup stadiums to the winning country’s fans,” an AB spokesperson told CNN Business. Further details are expected to be released closer to the final match, scheduled for December 18.

A Fourth Labor Union Rejects Rail Deal

Four labor unions representing a majority of railroad workers have now rejected the tentative labor deal negotiated in mid-September by the Biden administration, Axios reported. The rejection increases the odds of a labor stoppage after December 9, if a deal isn’t reached. Nevertheless, Congress could intervene, either requiring workers to accept a new deal or enacting a “cooling-off period,” the outlet reported.

Among the primary issues for rank-and-file union members is a lack of paid sick leave.

A rail strike could put more stress on an already taxed over-the-road trucking industry. For more on the potential effects to the brewing industry, read Brewbound’s previous conversation: Potential Railroad Worker Strike Presents Next Supply Chain Issue for Brewing Industry and Overall Economy.

TTB Updates Social Media Policy for First Time Since 2013

Beverage-alcohol producers using social media to promote their products should not use their official profiles to “like” any prohibited content, according to a recent update from the Department of Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) on social media.

“’Liking’ prohibited content such that it shows up in your ‘feed’ or equivalent is specifically prohibited,” Hinman & Carmichael partner Rebecca Stamey-White wrote in a blogpost about the new TTB guidance. “An example might be sharing health-related information that might be misleading (ie, agave spirits are good for diabetes) that the industry member didn’t create, but is adopting as their own content by sharing it.”

The TTB published an industry circular about the use of social media to advertise bev-alc products last week, its first since 2013.

In addition to banning the “liking” of prohibited content, the TTB also clarified that crowdfunding pages to raise capital and the use of augmented reality (AR) are both considered online advertising and must comply with the bureau’s advertising regulations.

“Similar to social network services, if an industry member maintains a crowdfunding page and discusses the company, its products, or the industry in general, the page or any content regarding certain alcohol beverage products posted to the page, by the industry member, is considered to be an advertisement and therefore subject to the TTB advertising regulations,” the TTB wrote.

If a producer uses AR to enhance the label of its product or an advertisement that contains all mandatory information, no additional information is required.

With its new industry circular, the TTB clarified that producers can split up mandatory information if it does not fit in a social media profile. Mandatory information includes an advertiser’s name, city and state, and a way for consumers to contact the company, such as a phone number, website or email address.

“Name and contact information may appear in the profile/about section (note that recent updates now permit websites to qualify as addresses),” Stamey-White wrote. “Class, type and alcohol content could be in the ‘shop’ or ‘products’ section, where consumers would be expected to review that information.

“When space is limited, industry members can link to the full information, but not if it could be misleading — ie, vodka with natural flavors cannot be shortened to vodka because that would be misleading,” she continued.

In addition, the TTB specified that any influencers posting content that could be considered advertising for a brand also need to include all mandatory information, but can link to that information within their content.

“To determine whether the content qualifies as industry member advertising, TTB will evaluate whether an industry member contributed to the posts and whether the influencer was compensated for the endorsement,” Stamey-White wrote.

The TTB also updated its FAQ section about several other digital marketing matters, including non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which are subject to advertising regulations, but can use only a brand name if they are “electronic forms of consumer specialty items.” The bureau cautioned bev-alc brands against naming only one retailer in posts about special events or where consumers can find products, which could be a thing of value to the retailer.

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