Will David Beckham's Stella Artois Endorsement Quench AB InBev's Thirst for Growth?

Jason Papp
Founder & Editor-in-chief
April 19, 2024

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David Beckham walks into a bar…and orders a Stella Artois…alone. No, I didn't think so either. But this is the latest of Beckham’s flurry of brand partnerships and they’ve paid Beckham to do just that. 

Oh if only they’d paid Victoria, too. That would have been a masterstroke to appeal to a whole new audience wanting part two of the Super Bowl Uber Eats ad.

But instead, Beckham drinks alone in a bar. I can’t remember the last time I walked into a swanky cocktail bar with Stella being on tap, nevermind front and centre. 

In AB InBev's 2023 financial report, the brewing giant outlines a continued push into premiumisation, leveraging its global brand portfolio to secure and grow its market share. And, David Beckham's recent endorsement fits this cushty. Sprinkle a bit of his stardust on Stella Artois, shift perceptions of the brand and he's golden. Still.

Stella Artois marketed itself under the slogan "reassuringly expensive" but became popularly known in Britain as the "wife beater" beer because of its high alcohol content and perceived connection with aggression and binge drinking.

Now, on first glance of their OOH billboards, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re playing up to this affectionate term. But the hand carrying the six pack isn’t just any old hand - it's billionaire Beckham’s hand, of course. A far cry from the binge drinking brawls of Bristol, Birmingham, or Bolton, if you will.

And there lies the danger. Fame is the single biggest driver of brand growth. Celebs work by boosting fame effects for your brand. However, by dialling down the use of Beckham, in a too-subtle way, surely it will reduce the effects.

If I gave an American audience three guesses to who was holding that Stella glass, or six pack, how many would guess right?

But wait, I hear you say. These billboards are part of a larger, or lager, integrated plan. There was the 30 second spot, then socials action, then all back round the reintroduce the big idea from a different angle, the hands only approach. Then the billboards which, in fairness, rotated to show one with Beckham face eventually. But by the time you’d seen both you’ve tripped over your untied shoelaces, dropped your iPhone down the drain and been pickpocketed of all your change. 

So this ad is like playing a game of Catchphrase - "Say what you see!" Each part of the puzzle you see, the clearer the picture gets. "It's good but it's not right!" The ads have been appearing online, as well as in Times Square. They rolled out before the TV work did, so they also functioned as a teaser campaign. 

"You're going to Barbados!"

Ah, now I’ve got it, it’s Beckham, the new face of that Belgium beer, Stella Artois. 

“I’m pleased to partner with Stella Artois and excited to celebrate the importance of genuine moments with family and friends. The brand and its distinctive taste has been a favourite for years,” said David.

Jokes aside, there’s a real danger for both brands and Beckham here. 

How many brand partnerships has Beckham been involved in lately? Nespresso is having us believe Beckham drinks Nespresso at home - he doesn’t, he owns a La Marzocco. Now he drinks Stella alone in the only swanky wine bar in the US selling the beer. 

I understand his strong marketability and being in demand, the safe option for global brands but there are some downsides for the Beckham brand here. 

The first thing is authenticity. 

Nespresso has its own unique identity and values, so too does Uber Eats and Stella Artois, for instance. By doing too many collaborations at once, the everyday consumer may start to question what Beckham actually stands for. Is it all for the pay packet? What brand does actually use, eat , drink day-to-day? Granted, luxury brands as a rule have smaller budgets to spend, but you get the point. Beckham is a billionaire with a taste for good coffee and exceptional wine, not Nespresso, not Stella! 

There’s also the danger of overexposure, too.

Again, the biggest issue I have with this partnership and Beckham’s Nespresso ambassadorship is believability. This is David Beckham, the one who was granted permission to build a massive wine cellar within their Oxfordshire home to store over 7,000 bottles of wine.

As ever with articles on creative campaigns across our marketing press, ultimately it doesn’t matter what we think. 

The commercial is part of a new year-long campaign and will run alongside digital and out-of-home advertising in the U.S., Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, South Korea and South Africa. 

Will Beckham's association with Stella Artois genuinely draw in a new demographic, or will the sheen of celebrity endorsements wear off, leaving consumers questioning the authenticity of these marketing marriages?

AB InBev's dice roll on Beckham symbolises more than just a bid for beer market dominance; it's a reflection of the shifting dynamics of brand identity and consumer engagement in a digital age for beverage brands. The company's 2023 financial report may boast impressive figures, but it's the underlying strategy of leveraging fame for brand growth, the pivot towards premiumisation, and the embracement of digital platforms that reveal AB InBev's real play at staying at the top of the beer game.

As for whether Beckham drinking a Stella will become an icon of sophisticated leisure or remain a point of contention, only time and the company's bottom line will tell.

Advertising Agency: Gut

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Jason Papp
Founder & Editor-in-chief