Anheuser-Busch, one of the major sponsors of next year’s World Cup
in France, has abandoned its attempt to thwart the country’s alcohol ad
ban and has sold the stadium billboards that would have promoted its
Budweiser brand to millions of TV viewers across the world.
The US brewer’s capitulation comes amid anger at last week’s
postponement of a decision by EU lawyers on whether or not a legal
challenge to France’s Loi Evin at the European Court of Justice should
have EU support.
The delay means that any move against the French ban is unlikely for at
least six months, provoking allegations from advertising lobbyists that
the French Government is using power politics to protect a law running
counter to the EU’s declared policy of commercial free speech.
Anheuser-Busch’s sale of perimeter sites to the Japanese electronics
group, Casio - which will use them to promote its G-Shock watch - is a
blow to Europe’s ad industry, which believes the Loi Evin will be harder
The sale follows the failure of Anheuser-Busch to agree a compromise
under which the perimeter boards would have remained blank, but would
have been filled with virtual ads for TV broadcasts outside France.
’The Anheuser-Busch decision is very bad news,’ Lionel Stanbrook, the
Advertising Association’s deputy director-general, said. ’It looks as
though the company has given up the fight.’
An Anheuser-Busch spokesperson said: ’We’ve been involved with the World
Cup for 16 years and we remain an official sponsor. But the Loi Evin is
a problem and the money from the sale of the sites will go into extra TV
and press advertising.’
A significant part of the extra cash will be used to bolster
Anheuser-Busch’s spend on Budweiser in the UK, where a TV and national
press campaign through BMP will run under the theme, ’one world, one
game, one beer’.
The EU lawyers also put off making a decision on the future of Germany’s
restrictions on customer loyalty programmes.
However, there could be early action against the Greek Government’s
outlawing of toy advertising on TV between 7am and 10pm.