Bud vs. bit
By Michael Dumiak, FORTUNE Magazine

(FORTUNE Magazine) - In this land where beer is king, Budweiser is a stranger. But just days from now, when Germany hosts the World Cup, the crown jewel of its favorite sport, Budweiser will make a run for the throne.

As the World Cup's official beer, Bud has pouring rights at all 12 stadiums where games will be played. But while the brand is everywhere in America, it has few fans among German beer drinkers. "I've tried Budweiser once in my life," says Bense Fels, a 24-year-old from Dortmund. "I don't even remember how it tastes. It was that thin."

There's even a Berlin website called Bud Out. Anheuser-Busch (Research), the St. Louis company that owns Bud, reportedly paid $40 million for the sponsorship. It will have enough beer on hand to pour 3.5 million cups over the four weeks of the tournament. And to help all that American beer go down, it cut a deal with Bitburger, the German beermaker, allowing the home-team company to sell its brew at three of every ten taps--a Bud Bowl--style competition stacked in favor of the visiting team.

While Bud signs on a World Cup stadium in Munich may leave a bad taste in some mouths, attitudes are fairly liberal toward foreign sponsorship of what Germans see as an international celebration. Even though Korea's Hyundai is the official World Cup car, not Mercedes or BMW, it's fine with Fels. "If other companies are going to put more money into it," he says, "they're the sponsors. That's capitalism." Top of page