A COLOSSAL F*CUP: The reception of BrewDog’s Anti-Sponsorship campaign across social media

Our experts share their thoughts on BrewDog’s sponsorship of the World Cup in Qatar, the reaction to the campaign across social media, and the firm's response to the criticism that they've received.



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Last Updated

Christie Clark, Marketing Manager

Digital Marketing, General News, Opinion, Social Media

4 Minutes

10 Nov 2022

02 May 2024

In case you’ve managed to miss it, BrewDog’s sponsorship of the Football World Cup in Qatar (and discussion about the ads that they’ve launched surrounding it) is a massive focus of social media chatter this week.

The Scottish brewer recently launched its OOH ads (stating ‘First Russia, then Qatar. Can’t wait for North Korea’) in an ‘Anti-Sponsorship’ capacity but has been urged by social media users to get its own house in order before taking aim at others.

BrewDog has, admittedly, pledged to share all of the profits from the sale of its ‘Lost Lager’ during the tournament with organisations fighting human rights abuse but the firm still plans to show World Cup matches at its branded pubs and bars. BrewDog is even going to be selling its products in Qatar whilst the games are on.

Backlash to the firm’s blatant hypocrisy has been widespread across socials but BrewDog founder James Watt’s response, to the valid criticism shared online (referring to people’s comments as the “usual Twitter hate”), has sparked even more discussion about the campaign online.

So, we’ve asked some of our experts to share what they think of all this (BrewDog’s sponsorship of the World Cup in Qatar, the reaction to the campaign across social media, and the firm’s response to the criticism that they’ve received) with you.

Like almost all alcohol-bev brands, BrewDog’s primary target demographic is 18-25 years old (‘new drinkers’ who haven’t yet determined their favourite beer) and this campaign shows a blatant lack of understanding of what Gen-Z consumers care about.

On the surface, the message appears great – it takes a principled and moral stance that would normally resonate with the brand’s consumers. The way that this has shown BrewDog to be a company that talks the talk but doesn’t bother walking the walk when it comes to morality will irrevocably dissuade young people from ever engaging with the Brewer’s products again.

A lot of the impetus behind this campaign is good old fashioned ‘any publicity is good publicity’ thinking but nowadays, social media won’t accept that – the justified reactions to this campaign have restored my faith in modern consumers (slightly).

Christie Clark (Marketing Manager | Found.)

The concept of the anti-world cup campaign is nice, but the problem is the execution. They cannot position themselves as an ‘anti-sponsor’ while still promoting the cup games in their bars. 

Brewdog has a lot of brand reputation work to do after their multitude of scandals, and speaking out on human rights sits a bit strangely given the reports on how they have historically treated their own staff. 

Overall the response on social media has been that people are finding the campaign quite opportunist and shallow. If they had truly committed and linked up their communications strategy with their ground strategy for bars, then it may have hit better. I feel they missed a trick by failing to create ‘World Cup Safe Spaces’ in their bars, showing alternative entertainment on the TVs or maybe even getting live acts from the LGBTQ+ community to properly boycott the event. 

Given nearly every bar will be showing the games, I find it odd that they are actively promoting watching the cup in their bars while saying they “don’t want to take the opportunity to watch football from customers”. This is completely undermines their ad campaign.

Ruth O’Brien (Paid Social Strategist | Found.)

The recent BrewDog ‘Anti-Sponsorship’ ads is a misplaced effort to appear woke but consumers aren’t stupid. 

Without making any real effort to make an action around the World Cup, BrewDog have splashed on billboards that are not only distasteful but also belittles what real people in Qatar are facing. 

The fact that BrewDog will still be showing the World Cup games in their pub’s just proves that this company doesn’t actually care at all. They still want to make money from the event they are supposedly morally against. 

This PR stunt might have created the brand awareness BrewDog wanted, but at what cost? 

BrewDog have shown their true colours with this campaign and it has hypocrisy written all over it. If you’re going to create such bold statements, should you not also do something to support said statements?

Sadia Khan (Paid Social Account Executive | Found.)

Having the World Cup in Qatar is a terrible choice, from human rights abuses and migrant workers deaths to the corruption in how they were awarded the tournament.

All this makes it a minefield to advertise using the World Cup. 

At first glance, BrewDog’s anti-sponsorship looks like a great way to increase brand awareness and good PR however as a whole it seems like virtue signalling as the Brewdog venues will be showing the games so they will be making a profit from the World Cup. 

When you make yourselves out to be the hero standing against the goliath that is the World Cup only to be profiting from the World Cup, it takes away any good PR from the stunt. 

For any brand using the World Cup this year to advertise there will be questions raised especially when brands take the moral high ground but at the same time, it is one of the world’s biggest events so I feel that the key is to remain transparent in your goals to customers. You can’t be against the event but accept its rewards.

Sol Campbell (Senior Paid Social Account Executive | Found.)

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