Budweiser Beats has two powerful brand attributes of inclusivity and high energy, which has helped the energy drink make a mark on its Indian audience, says Vineet Sharma, Vice President of Marketing, South Asia, and AB InBev. In a chat with exchange4media, Sharma spoke about the company's strategic plans to expand across India, its ad campaigns and associations with sporting events globally.
When we launched in 2021, we wanted our product to take centre stage, allowing consumers to try our offering without overwhelming them with a creative narrative. We focused on distribution and retail access, unlocking a route to market distinct from our familiar beer channels, and truly understanding the energy drinks segment in India. Over time, we have built a loyal and growing consumer base. Driven by data, and consumer insights; today, we’re able to create a relevant, authentic brand world for Budweiser Beats energy drink that resonates with the lifestyle and interests of our target audience.
Furthermore, our campaign, ‘Get Your Beats On’, reflects the shared values of creativity and inclusivity championed by our core consumers. Beyond the campaign, Budweiser Beats energy drink, also wants to be where our consumers are, and our multi-pronged strategy is designed to fulfill this endeavor - enabling us to stay top-of-mind for the hyper-connected target group (dynamic Gen Zs and younger millennials). From partnering with leading and iconic festivals, tapping into passion points that our audience resonates with, to driving a relatable dialogue with emerging creators on cognitive energy- the brand aims to build a strong community and loyal following among the new generation of energy drink consumers.
What’s your quarterly advertising budget and how do you plan advertising and marketing across the Indian market? Which categories are you investing your budget in?
When it comes to advertising an energy drink, some endless opportunities and channels help drive engagement and deliver the overall brand narrative. Generation Z is the first 100% digitally native generation. Younger millennials too, show a preference for digital content formats and mediums. They are appreciative of brands that provide them with authentic, shareable content.
At Budweiser, we curate content in line with the consumption patterns of this hyper-aware consumer group across short- and long formats for effective engagement. Real, raw, and relevant content draws attention. With rapidly changing algorithms and popular formats, we are dedicated to pre-empting trends and working proactively with our insights & social listening teams to be ahead of the curve. Our primary focus in advertising is digital platforms. India has one of the world’s largest sports viewing audiences and so, we’ve partnered with both Star Sports and JioCinema for IPL.
We are also collaborating with OTT and video streaming platforms like Voot and Disney+ Hotstar to air our brand film. While digital is a dominant force, tech cannot match human nuances. The power of emotional connections should not be underestimated. Therefore, we make it a point to activate across touchpoints, connecting with consumers in moments that matter, or when they are creating/ making “core memories”. For example, we have partnered with iconic and culture-shaping festivals including Lollapalooza, Magnetic Fields, and Supersonic to create unparalleled, customised experiences.
Recognizing the significance of gaming as a passion point for our target audience, we will also maintain a strong presence across gaming platforms. Looking beyond Budweiser Beats energy drink and at the mother brand, Budweiser- India is now among the top 5 markets for the world’s most-loved beer brand. As a growing beverage brand in India, with offerings ranging from beer, and whiskey to non-alcoholic products including an energy drink and 0.0 beer, we are optimistic about our growth in the country and are accordingly investing in advertising, PR, and media incrementally. Even beyond Budweiser, as the leader in the premium and super premium beer categories, we are seeing much enthusiasm for our Hoegaarden portfolio and Corona beer. Localised in 2021, these super premium brands are increasingly becoming a favourite among Gen Zs above LDA and younger millennials in urban centers.
Do you have any market expansion plans in the coming months? Are you planning to expand the market across India?
With a negligible penetration of 4-5% in India, the energy drinks category presents a lucrative opportunity for the recruitment of consumers by tapping into new occasions and need states. We are already available in pan India through modern trade and e-commerce. Accessibility and affordability are drivers of category penetration for any product. And, while Budweiser Beats energy drink may not be competing in the affordability segment, we are very confident about using distribution and innovative, disruptive marketing to drive growth for both the brand as well as the larger category by unlocking occasions and thereby unearthing its vast potential in India. To drive accessibility, we are developing comprehensive route-to-market strategies and building partnerships with key retailers, e-commerce platforms pan India.
We are investing in building a strong distribution network as well as in standing out from the competition by offering a superior product with natural caffeine, differentiated trade visibility and disruptive positioning. Leveraging our existing relationships in the beer business, we are also making inroads into the on-trade channels. This includes not only bars and pubs but also airports, HoReCa (hotels, restaurants, and catering), and QSR (Quick-Service Restaurants).
AB InBev entered the energy drink market with the launch of Budweiser Beats in the year 2021. Do you have more plans to invest in energy drink categories in the coming months?
The energy drinks segment presents an incredible opportunity within the larger beverage industry. With only 4-5% penetration in the country and the growth trajectory of this segment witnessed in geographies world over, we believe, the category is set to grow at an exponential rate in India, over the next decade. The energy drinks market in India is divided into two segments: basic pricing. 50% (value market share) of the market belongs to the premium segment which houses three brands: Budweiser Beats, Red Bull, and Monster. Approximately 35% (value market share) of the energy drinks market falls under the value segment, comprising brands such as Sting and Charged.
The core segment which includes brands like Hell, and Predator and also features our in-house offering, introduced in 2022, Hurricane, comprises 15% (value market share) of the energy drinks market. So, we’re straddling both – the premium and core segments – reaching a much broader base of consumers.
Which events and sports is the brand associated with, to boost the overall revenue coming from Budweiser beats?
For Budweiser Beats energy drink, we want to be where our new-age consumers are, so we’ve partnered with leading festivals in the country- Echoes of Earth, Magnetic Fields, Lollapalooza, HG Street, VH1 Supersonic, Road to Ultra amongst others. We used these events to create unparalleled experiences for our audiences to increase brand recall and build positive associations, becoming an integral part of memory structures.
We aim to go beyond the adventure-focused narrative promoted by competitors in the space and instead focus on cognitive and creative energy levers. Hence, we are tapping into culture north stars across art, design, photography, gaming, and comedy that interest the younger target group.
What's your audience in India and what kind of campaigns are you focusing on to boost the overall Budweiser market in the country?
Our TG is millennials and Gen Zs, above LDA, and within that group, Budweiser Beats energy drink is focused on emerging, creative professionals and hustlers who are seeking refreshing beverage options to help them power through their day and unlock their creative best. While we are looking at India as a whole, tier 1 cities like Delhi NCR, Mumbai, and Bangalore witness higher consumption and are, therefore, a priority for our marketing efforts. Our recent campaign, ‘Get Your Beats On’, will help us increase product adoption and establish resonance with our target audience.
According to company officials, the company aimed to corner a 10 percent market share after the pandemic. Have you achieved the estimated numbers in the last couple of years?
While we cannot provide precise figures or percentages at this moment, we have been working diligently to build our brand presence and capture a share of the market. With Hurricane also joining the mix in our energy drinks portfolio, we are making steady progress toward achieving our ambitious goal. The global pandemic undoubtedly impacted consumer behaviors and market dynamics across industries. As a young and agile brand, we have been quick to pivot and adapt our approach to navigate these challenging times and remain committed to our long-term growth plans.