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Volume 21 No. 1
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Plugged In: Joao Chueiri, A-B InBev

Joao Chueiri became vice president of consumer connections at Anheuser-Busch InBev last month. The former Nike marketer succeeds Lucas Herscovici in the job, which includes overseeing A-B InBev’s hefty U.S. sponsorship portfolio. The brewer has long been sports’ sugar daddy, but Chueiri said that needs to change.

Most of the leagues just see us as a source of revenue, rather than as a true partner. We sit with the NFL and they tell us women are a priority and that they want to enter the Chinese market. We can help there, so the question is how we can develop a real partnership, based on mutual interests.

On more effective use of sponsorships: Considering the amount of money we spend on partnerships, we need to better leverage them and make sure they work. If you do the pure analysis on the amount of money we are spending versus how we are doing with those brands, there’s a challenge. It’s less about the IP and more about the access we get, the experiences we can create and how that connects us to consumers. We need to move to a model where we can really understand the added value of the properties to our brands. Ours are such huge brands — the last thing they need is visibility. Free up the money for me to do things that can change the game for our brands.

His assignment? The challenge is to actually use our properties to help consumers understand the differences between Bud and Bud Light. There’s a reason we have two brands, but I don’t think we are doing a good job leveraging our properties to convey that each of those brands stands for something different — that’s why they have different sponsorship strategies.

On sports adjusting to a generation unwilling to consume sports on linear TV in two- and three-hour blocks: This is the most fundamental, far-reaching philosophical debates the sports industry has today: How to shape the games and leagues in ways that will connect with an audience that is not as heavy consumers of traditional TV. I don’t think anyone has the answers there yet, but it’s the right conversation for leagues to be having. If they can unlock that for us, obviously, it would be tremendously helpful. What they are offering us generally is great for brands that need visibility, but not great for brands like us, which have been partners for 20 or 30 years. That model hasn’t evolved much. That conversation has to start with how can we evolve the rules of the games and how will brands fit that new model. Those are the most interesting conversations we need to have.

Would A-B be interested in a sponsorship priced according to ROI measures: To be honest, this is one of the things we’re considering as we look to reinvent the way we partner. We all need to rethink the status quo.

On knowledge gained at Nike that will apply at A-B InBev: There’s a fundamental belief at Nike that you always work to make the brand stronger, because that will grow the overall business. At ABI, we are still moving to that model. We still have huge room to grow there, but what’s going to allow us more [financial] growth is to have even stronger brands. That is my commitment: to help the organization think brand first across every marketing platform.

— Terry Lefton