Were I to walk into a room and scream "Wasssssupppp" at the top of my lungs, those inside – at least those over the age of 25 – would know I was making a terribly dated reference to a Budweiser ad from the turn of the millennium.
Budweiser has a knack of creating moments of cultural relevance that stand out. From its "Bud-wei-ser" frogs to rebranding as "America" ahead of the 2017 US election, the self-proclaimed King of Beers tends to deliver both authenticity and relevance at key moments.
In our annual Best Global Brands report, Budweiser is one of the few brands to have consistently grown in value over the past 18 years, from $10.6bn (£8bn) in 2000 to $15.6bn today.
Given its track record of World Cup sponsorship, the recent news that Budweiser will be the official sponsor of the England women's football team – announced on International Women’s Day – may not feel like a big surprise.
"Beer brand sponsors sports team" isn’t exactly a Pulitzer-winning headline, but it is typical of the cultural moves that Budweiser makes and one of the reasons the brand keeps growing. Women’s sport is massively undervalued – a growth market with a dearth of major sponsorship and an opportunity to talk to both male and female lovers of the beautiful game.
Budweiser has a "first mover" advantage in women’s football – it’s ahead of the curve. It’s a brave move and a clever one too. By being first in a not-so-crowded space, it can build an affiliation with women’s football and women's sport more generally as it increases in popularity and visibility over time.
Think of the way Guinness and rugby now go hand in hand. If handled with panache, Budweiser could achieve something similar with women’s football.
Early days this may be, but the partnership can build on authentic foundations. Budweiser will need to shift expectations – to make bold work that empowers women, understands the market and tackles the struggles that female sports stars face. It will need to be honest, find untapped insights and give a platform to unheard voices, and not be afraid to take a point of view if there is genuine value in doing so.
Reflecting on our two decades of Best Global Brands brand value data, not far ahead of Budweiser is Gillette. The two brands make a fascinating comparison. Procter & Gamble’s male-grooming brand is on a rollercoaster ride: from $17.3bn in 2000 to $25.1bn in 2013, before plummeting to $16.8bn last year, just ahead of Budweiser.
The cultural dimension of branding is just as important today as it was when we were braying "Wasssssupppp" in the 1990s, but these days brands need to walk the talk – to go beyond cultural appropriation and show real commitment to the properties that they attach themselves to.
Brands need to be a driving force for change – be a part of it, not on the periphery. Whereas Gillette hasn’t managed to carve out a distinct cultural space, Budweiser has a real chance to follow in the steps of Nike or Sports England’s "This girl can" to create groundbreaking work that crystallises its position in an embryonic market.
Budweiser has created the chance to build its brand with a new generation of female football players and fans. It’s a clever and welcome extension to its World Cup football franchise. Let’s see if it can unlock the potential of this deal through sponsorship activation, where tone of voice will be critical to ensure that this is seen as an authentic and meaningful partnership.
Christian Purser is chief executive of Interbrand London