Is BrewDog’s War on the World Cup a Win or a Miss?

  • Brewdog boycotting the World Cup
  • The proud “Anti-Sponsor”
  • Brand considered hypocritical despite ads

BrewDog are at it again. Doing big attention-getting marketing, earning press, burnishing their reputation as a challenger brand, and getting plenty of flak for it.

The latest campaign is their positioning as an “Anti-Sponsor” of the imminent FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The tournament has been overshadowed by accusations of FIFA corruption, by reports of exploitation and the deaths of thousands of workers in the rush to ready the Gulf State for the competition, and by Qatar’s woeful record on human rights, including its anti-LGBT laws.

These are the issues BrewDog’s poster campaign is drawing attention to with slogans like “Eat, Sleep, BRIBE Football”. They’re the proud “Anti-Sponsor” of the World Cup, donating proceeds from one of their brands during the tournament to human rights campaigns. A dig at the global brands who sponsor the tournament but are staying quiet on the human rights abuses.

So BrewDog are boycotting the World Cup, then? Well, no, and here’s where the marketing industry controversy starts. BrewDog has a distribution deal in Qatar and their bars will be showing games here: cue accusations of hypocrisy.

We tested two of the campaign’s posters using our Test Your Ad Static platform, designed to predict the effectiveness of outdoor, print and static online work. One was the “Eat, Sleep, Bribe” execution, the other was the “First Russia, Now Qatar” billboard – both pointing the finger at FIFA corruption and its effects on football.

We were looking to answer three questions:

  • Is the campaign effective advertising for BrewDog?
  • Is it effective awareness-raising for the issues around the Qatar World Cup?
  • Are marketers’ criticisms of the campaign shared by the general public?

Proud Anti Sponsor of the World Cup



First things first – is it effective? The two ads scored low on Test Your Ad – 1.8-Stars for “First Russia”, 2.3-Stars for “Eat, Sleep, Bribe”. For an angry, awareness-raising billboard, that’s not a terrible score. But it’s not doing a lot to raise BrewDog brand awareness on its own – Brand Fluency was solid for the “Russia” execution but low for the “Bribe” one. Ironically, the discussion around the campaign – criticism included – will be doing much more for BrewDog’s mental availability than the actual ads.

What about the Qatar debate – is BrewDog’s intervention helping to boost awareness of the issues around this World Cup? To find out we looked at the comments our representative sample gave us. For the “Bribe” execution the message did come through – people recognised the ads were talking about alleged corruption in FIFA and the World Cup bidding process.

The other execution hit a snag, though – mention of Russia created a lot of negative response, but all of it about the Ukraine war. The language is effective and emotive and triggered awareness – just not awareness of the issue BrewDog are actually addressing.

Proud Anti Sponsor of the World Cup



Finally, were viewers angry about the hypocrisy around BrewDog’s activities? Normally when we test purpose-driven advertising we do indeed find some viewers angry about green-washing, or hypocrisy, or brands being too “woke”. None of that here. Plenty of viewers were neutral – for a campaign that’s meant to hit hard, emotional intensity was quite low. But the ones that mentioned BrewDog were almost all positive about the brand in general.

It looks like not only have the accusations around BrewDog not filtered through to the general public, but that the brand’s confrontational approach in the past is acting as insurance against the usual shouts of “woke!” every time a brand dares mention social justice.

To be clear, we’re not dismissing the criticisms – there’s obviously a debate to be had about where the lines are between sponsorship, criticism and tacit endorsement. But in terms of this campaign and its effectiveness, BrewDog have yet another awareness-raising ad on their hands – the problem is that the execution means it’s not raising awareness of Brand or issue as strongly as it could be.


Test Your Ad Static enables brands and agencies to gauge the emotional response to their print, digital and outdoor advertising.

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