This Bud's for Rihanna

The pop singer joins Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake in pitching Budweiser and attempting to steady the faltering brand.

By Jason Notte Jul 10, 2013 3:15PM
Rihanna arrives at the 55th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles (© MARIO ANZUONI/Newscom/RTR)No clouds in her stones -- or her beer either.

Rihanna is reuniting with "Umbrella" collaborator and occasional touring partner Jay-Z after signing a deal with Anheuser-Busch Inbev (BUD) that puts both her and Jay-Z at the front of a campaign for its Budweiser brand. According to Ad Age, the "Made for Music" marketing push begins in 85 countries next week and includes TV commercials, limited-edition packaging, and sponsorships of Rihanna's and Jay-Z's concerts.

A-B Inbev has been struggling to make Budweiser palatable to Americans again after MolsonCoors' (TAP) Coors Light replaced it as the nation's No. 2 brand in 2011. Bud sales tanked 29% in the five years before that, and the brand has lost more than 60% of its sales since its 50 million-barrel peak in 1988.

At that time, Budweiser accounted for more than 25% of all beer sold in the U.S. For some perspective, Budweiser once held market share close to that now held by both the Miller and Coors brands combined (27%).

A-B Inbev has thrown just about everything at the wall to halt that trend. It has introduced premium brands like Budweiser American Ale, Budweiser Black Crown, Bud Light Lime margarita flavors, Justin Timberlake-marketed Bud Light Platinum, and Jay-Z's own Budweiser Select.

It purchased Chicago small brewer Goose Island from the Craft Brew Alliance (BREW) last year. It's hosting its Made in America music festival in Philadelphia this August with Beyonce and Nine Inch Nails, and it has been sponsoring pop-culture site A.V. Club's A.V. Undercover performances in an attempt to get younger audiences to drink its declining brand.

Bud's latest deal with Rihanna and Jay-Z covers 160 events in 25 countries, including the Made in America event. Jay-Z is scheduled to begin a tour with Timberlake later this month called "Legends of the Summer." Examples of the special packaging include a Rihanna travel case, which is a 24-pack of Budweiser beers that come in black cans emblazoned with a "Diamonds World Tour" logo.

Packaging has been kind of a sore spot for Budweiser as well, as new bow-tie cans it introduced in spring reduced the amount of beer in them to 11.3 ounces. Hiring Rihanna, Jay-Z and Timberlake is a move away from such indignities, however, and may represent a step in the right direction for Bud and its parent company.

Until Beer Marketer's Insights reported an estimated 0.6% uptick in A-B InBev sales for 2012, the big brewer had seen sales drop each year since 2008.

More on moneyNOW

Jul 10, 2013 4:56PM
They could start by making their beer not taste awful. The microbrew explosion that began in the '90s has educated Americans on what proper beer tastes like, as well as provided us with ample alternatives to the lackluster corporate macrobrews. Is it really a surprise that there's been a massive drop in sales of Budweiser since 1988?
Jul 11, 2013 12:23PM

If Bud and other mass beer producers want people to buy watered down, average tasting beer, they need to make the prices cheaper.


When a 6 pack of Bud is the same price as a 6 pack of a local microbrew, there's no reason to take the watered down Bud.  If it were a couple bucks cheaper, I'd probably buy it.

Jul 10, 2013 6:32PM

@theaphidgod Agree 100 percent. Not sure why they keep throwing more money in concerts or ads. Try throwing more money into making different beer. With the exception of Black Crown, the rest (Bud, Bud Light, Bud Light Plat, Bud Select) all tastes the same. You would think with all that money they would be able to make some outstanding beer, but hey, they have an image to protect i guess....


Go try some of these: Bridgeport Hop Czar Imperial IPA, Widmer Hef, Rogue American Amber Ale, Ninkasi Total Domination IPA.

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