Coming July will see harsher regulations for the marketing of beer in Russia. Advertising Age, an international magazine dedicated to news, analysis and data on marketing and media, describes brewers and advertising companies venturing into digital marketing and flooding broadcast time in a final effort to build brand awareness.

This year, Russian beer will lose its classification as a ‘foodstuff.’ This categorization has previously allowed beer companies more marketing freedom than their spirit producing colleagues. For instance, spirits commercials, have been banned from TV for years, except on pay channels. Interestingly, the new law also prohibits alcohol advertising on pay channels.

Because beer was branded a foodstuff, it has become widely available. This led to an “on-the-go beer-consumption culture”, as it is called in the article in Advertising Age. Because of this attitude, international brewers were undoubtedly attracted to the country. Accordingly, Russian beer sales grew 400% between 1997 and 2007, according to Euromonitor.

The article in Advertising Age shows that it’s still uncertain how the law will affect the market. However, it does seem clear that the one that has the most to lose is Denmark-based brewing company Carlsberg. Carlsberg currently holds the top position in Russia, with 36.6% of the market. AB InBev is the No. 2 brewer, with almost 15% of the market across its brands.

AB InBev has recently invested much in their position in the Russian market, through the 2010 launch of their Budweiser brand, as well as signing on as official beer sponsor for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which the country will host. While beer advertising and sale is currently prohibited in Russian stadiums, the brewer and FIFA hope an exception will be made. If such an exception will not be made, AB InBev is prepared to use “alternative channels of communication, i.e. digital and PR channels,” a spokeswoman told Advertising Age.

To overcome the negative effects of the ban, one of the shifts in beer marketing will see beer advertised through new media. Predominantly though social media. “Advertising agencies understand that a new era has come and that this is our future,” Olga Tsoukanova, managing director for Lowe Adventa, Moscow, told Advertising Age. Lowe Aventa manages advertising for several brands owned by Sun InBev, the Russian arm of Anheuser-Busch InBev. However, in the same article another marketer voices his concerns over the fact that Russia’s most popular social network, Vkontakte, does not accept beer ads. The alternative, Facebook, has far less market penetration in Russia.

The ban on beer advertising can be seen as a political reaction to the recently calculated figure that more than half of all deaths of people aged 15 to 54 are caused by alcohol. President Dmitry Medvedev, stated that his aim is to lower annual per-capita alcohol consumption from 18 liters to five to eight liters by 2020.
Source: 01/02/12

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