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The Ugly Game

It’s difficult to figure out what to be most disgusted by in the whole Robbie Earle world cup tickets farrago:

The fact that he sold tickets he had been allocated for friends and family?

The fact that ITV is allocated thousands of free tickets anyway?  Why on earth does Robbie Earle need forty tickets for a Holland Denmark game in the first place?

The fact that when Fifa Vice President Jack Warner did the same thing in 2006 – netting himself $1million – he kept his job?

The fact that Earle’s naughtiness only came to light because he sold his tickets to forty women who used them to stage an ‘ambush marketing’ campaign for Bavaria Beer?

Fifa says these women are illegal. (Pic stolen from the Guardian)

No.  Winner in this whole unpleasant business has to go to the fact that these women were surrounded by forty stewards, ejected from the stadium, and held by Fifa for several hours in what they call a ‘facility’, for the crime of looking quite hot and wearing orange mini skirts.

Budweiser is, once again, the official beer sponsor of the World Cup.  This means Bud is the only beer on sale in and around the stadia (not quite as offensive in South Africa as it was in Germany in 2006, but still pretty offensive).  It also means that Budweiser is the only beer signage allowed anywhere near the games.

That’s why in 2006, Bavaria issued Dutch fans with orange trousers with ‘Bavaria’ written on them.  It was a cheeky bit of guerilla marketing, and Fifa decided they didn’t like it.  The Dutch fans were told they had to strip and watch the game trouserless, or go home.  This astonishing infringement of human rights became headline news, giving Bavaria infinitely more free marketing than if paying fans had just been allowed to wear what they liked to watch their national team.  When I googled ‘Budweiser World Cup’ later that year, the first page of hits were all newspaper articles and blogs criticising Fifa’s bully boy tactics on behalf of Budweiser.  The official Bud site was way down the page.

Fair enough, A-B Inbev forked out a lot of money and in return deserve not to have any other beer advertised in the stadia.  But your right to exclusive marketing surely does not extend to telling private individuals what they are and are not allowed to wear.

But this week saw an unrepentant Fifa and Budweiser taking this abuse to even higher levels.  Orange is the Dutch national colour.  It’s quite reasonable to expect fans of the national team to wear it.  Unlike the trousers last year, this time there was no branding, no mention of the beer at all, anywhere on the garments in question.  And yet these girls were ejected from the game and held against their will for several hours afterwards.

Let’s be realistic: even though Bavaria have denied involvement, of course it was a marketing stunt: why else would forty identically dressed women turn up in one block?  But it’s a brilliant stunt: once again, Bavaria has had acres of free press coverage, and Fifa and Bud have been made to look really quite sinister and scary.

But that’s because they are.  We all know it’s a marketing stunt, but it doesn’t break any rules.  The rules prohibit competitive beer branding around the stadium.  There was no branding.  End of.

As the Bavaria spokesperson says, Fifa don’t have a trade mark on the colour orange.  This is an astonishing abuse of human rights – admittedly a trivial one in the context of South Africa’s recent history, but still deeply disturbing, because it’s all about protecting the commercial rights of a beer brand.  No brand should have the power to do something like this.  If Fifa and Bud are to remain consistent in this policy, we should expect them to eject and detain any England fan with a St George’s cross flag, T-shirt or face paint, because this is a device used extensively in marketing by Bombardier, a competitive beer brand to Budweiser.  That would be utterly absurd, outrageous and unacceptable of course.  But then so is this.

How A-B Inbev think this ugly, bullying behaviour helps enhance Budweiser’s reputation is beyond me.

So it now appears that the two women who organised the stunt were arrested and face criminal charges.  Let’s be clear here: they are guilty of getting women to wear orange dresses at a football game.  And they could face jail time for that.  So FIFA and A-B Inbev are now giving their rival billions in free publicity.  They’re making themselves look sinister to an unparalleled degree – as brands, Nestle, Halliburton, Goldman Sachs look positively cuddly next to this lot.  And something that allegedly breaks the terms of a brand licensing deal (it doesn’t, in fact) has been wilfully confused for something that breaks the criminal laws of a state.  Let’s be clear: the precedent this creates could see you arrested for wearing branded merchandise of your choice if you’re wearing it in what a corporation – not the police, not the state, but an unelected, unrepresentative private company – deems the wrong place.  I don’t know about you, but I’m scared.

My A-B Inbev boycott starts right now.




I’m afraid it doesn’t bother me at all, I’m minded to recall Borges’ comment on the Falklands War: two bald men fighting over a comb


Great points Pete, I think FIFA are the villians here, once again, they say they are protecting the interests of their massive partnering sponsors but where is the humanity in a sports tournament. The cricket authorities learnt that control like this is counter productive and relented for the T20 in the caribean. Bud just need a better PR machine that understands the poor long term consequences of this type of high handed management


Maybe i should tell my mate not to attend the England match on friday in his Jaipur tee shirt!

Just thought, am i guerilla marketing right now?

Strange world


we are going to have loads more of this nonsense in the run up to Olympics with kebabs shop etc banned from mentioning the olympics in their names signs etc. What will meantime do as one of the brewers in the Olympic boroughs?

Martyn Cornell

So a man's not allowed to to give away his World Cup tickets to 40 close friends who all just happen to be extremely attractive 20-something blondes with a penchant for wearing bright colour-coordinated outfits on public occasions? What a sad, suspicious universe we live in.

Pivní Filosof

Actually, Budweiser isn't the only beer signage allowed in the games. I saw the logos of Quilmes and Brahma, respectively from Argentina and Brazil, at the games of those countries.

It should be added that both are brands of AB-InBev.

Curiously, though, in Argentina Budweiser isn't brewed or distributed by the brand's owners, but under license by their biggest local competitor. Funny world.

Peter Russell

I may join in the boycott, however, a list of AB Inbev brands would be useful just in case there is any danger I might drinking one by mistake.


What better way to accompany this blog than with a glass of "Chernihivske Bile".

Serve cold. Well-deserved.

(See Wiki InBev list.)


Jaipur, I would gladly wear a Thornbridge Jaipur t-shirt to any sporting event.

Pete is spot on here. It's free media criminalisation as FIFA have all the rights for everything involved in the world cup. If you pay enought money then they give you what you want.

FIFA are just a glamourised business model. It costs £80 to become an official England fan when in Germany my friend paid 35 Euros. They actually won more than we did too.

Look at the England t-shirts. £50. Recommended retail price. No discounting. Can the average England fan really afford to pay out that amount? Probably not but they do. It's rather criminal.

Look at match day tickets and how impossible they are to get.

Also look at INBEV. Their aggressive marketing campaigns make logical marketing companies look like amateurs. They are insanely aggressive and get out of everything but keeping the Government in pocket. They should face criminal charges for proclaiming Budweiser as a beer when it is really maize and rice.

It's a sickening joke. I have boycotted FIFA and Budweiser for a long time and continue to do so. I make it a priority to ignore all INBEV products. INBEV stinks but people are so so gullable. They believe their marketing and actually think there is nothing like Budweiser and they are Budweieser people. I'm a Bud man. Well you're an idiot.

Cooking Lager

Ambush marketing works, the official sponsor appears a bully and we are all more aware of a discount lager brand. You cannot buy that publicity.


I live in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. All those who insist on drinking A-B swill in this region are daft beyond belief, although I will admit to reluctantly drinking Bud when it's been free. Those days are gone – I will no longer drink A-B shite even if it's free.

Pivní Filosof

Thomas, I'm from Argentina, so I know whom Quilmes and Brahma belong to: Ambev, who are actually the Bev part of InBev.

Go, see in AB-InBev's website the local brands section.


Corporations and money have ruined football and trying to do the same for rugby union. I have no problem boycotting Bud……. cold fizzy rubbish with a faint aroma the urinal and a chemical taste to make you gag


Some say we should not be bothered with the orange dress incident.
I believe we should . And put our foot down to show Fifa and Bud reacted outrageously and used the power they temporarily bought out of proportion, against an orange dressed group of students shame on you.. no winners here..
What is this for kind of "fair play" They should change there quote it into "money talks"
Of course they forgot they lost all sympathy in the eyes of normal folks like me.

Stephen Harris

Budweiser was / is the only beer brand on sale inside the stadiums. At 30 Rand a bottle (c. £3), there was no queue to buy it. Interestingly it is SAB Castle who have the rights to sell beer at the various Fan Festivals, where they are selling Castle Lager (almost as ghastly as Bud in my opinion) – but FIFA have insisted that they are sold in special annonymised cans as "South African Lager" – these retail for 15 Rand.

I was at the Holland v Denmark game at Soccer City. We saw the 'Bavaria Girls'. Our only thought was "Why couldn't we have got seats a bit nearer to them". It never crossed our minds for a moment that they were advertsing non-approved beer. It took FIFA to bring that to our attention.


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