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In World Cup beer bout, it's Ambev vs. Ambev

Christiana Sciaudone and Juan Pablo Spinetto
(c) 2014, Bloomberg News.


SAO PAULO, Brazil — Ambev is pitting its top Brazil beer against its own best Argentina seller in World Cup advertisements that play up a rivalry between the soccer- obsessed nations.

In Skol's television ad, Brazilian soccer fans lure their Argentine counterparts into a house that's then packed up and shot out of a cannon back to Buenos Aires. Quilmes's dig is more subtle. At the end of the commercial a narrator intones: "You'll regret you issued even one ticket," referencing reports that demand for tickets from Argentines topped supply.

The fact that both brands belong to Anheuser-Busch InBev's Ambev SA makes the strategy unusual, said Leslie Farnsworth, chief executive officer of FrogDog, a Houston-based marketing strategy consultant. Leuven, Belgium-based Inbev also owns U.S. favorite Budweiser and Belgium's Stella Artois. The two nations faced off on the soccer field earlier this week, with Belgium beating the American team 2-1.

"Playing into that national fervor, especially around the World Cup, makes a lot of sense," Farnsworth said in a telephone interview. "I don't know of a precedent where a company has owned both brands and then has decided to position them like this."

Brazil and Argentina are among the favorites to make it to the World Cup final. Bloomberg Sports forecasts Brazil has a 28 percent chance of winning, compared with 19 percent for Argentina. The nations first played each other 100 years ago -- Argentina won -- and the rivalry between the neighbors has only heated up since.

The Quilmes ad shows a Brazilian fan being wrapped in a blue-and-white Argentine flag after being conquered, while Brazilians sing in the Skol commercial that no one knows the Argentine anthem so they decided to make one up.

Skol created other similar ads poking fun at the English and Italians, among others, as part of its "Welcome to Our Surroundings" marketing campaign.

The ads show Brazilians welcoming foreigners in a "fun way that taps into the irreverence and good humor of the soccer culture," Skol said in an e-mail response to questions. "The idea behind the campaign was to play with the peculiarities of each country and at no time to offend any nationalities."

Ambev, which has a 68 percent market share in Brazil, saw earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization in the country grow 15 percent to 2.89 billion reais ($1.3 billion) in the first quarter of 2014, according to the company's quarterly earnings statement. Southern Latin America, a region that includes Argentina, saw Ebitda increase 23 percent to 848 million reais.

The World Cup quarterfinal stage begins Friday. Brazil will play Colombia in Fortaleza at 5 p.m. tomorrow, while Argentina plays Belgium on July 5 in Brasilia.

The rivalry between the two teams will heat up as they work their way toward the July 13 final in Rio de Janeiro. That's good news for both Skol and Quilmes.

"Each brand has a different language," Rafael Pulcinelli, sports marketing manager at Ambev, said in an interview Wednesday. "If you take the language that the brands speak, each of them have their own peculiarity in the way they communicate with consumers."

— With assistance from Alex Duff in Rio de Janeiro.

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