Beer drinking isn’t just an American sport. Anheuser-Busch, parent of Budweiser, realized this more than a decade ago when it began to build its traditional American-as-apple-pie company into one with strong international revenue streams. The Anheuser global approach is two-pronged — one effort is built on selling the Budweiser brand outside the U.S., while the other focuses on acquiring and investing in native beers. Its initial investment a decade ago in Mexico’s Grupo Modelo (the maker of Corona) paid off almost from the start. Last year, the 50 percent stake reaped more than $350 million for Anheuser, up 38 percent from the year before. Another still unproven, but rife-with-potential investment is Anheuser’s almost 10 percent stake in Tsingtao Brewery, producers of China’s number-one selling beer.

Steve Burrows, CEO and president of Anheuser-Busch International, says the company’s U.S. experience taught them how to successfully manage strong brands in a variety of demographic niches, and they apply that knowledge to their investments around the globe. That’s not to say they forsake Budweiser internationally, though. In fact, international Anheuser-Busch brand beer volume for third quarter 2003 increased 11 percent over third quarter 2002. The company markets aggressively, similar to its strategy in the U.S., to boost those numbers. “We market overseas not that differently than we do in the U.S.,” Burrows says. “We do in-store marketing activities with displays and promotions, and we sponsor events that are relevant to the consumer.”

In Europe, that means soccer, soccer, and more soccer. Anheuser not only is a lead sponsor in the FIFA World Cup, but launched its own global Budweiser Cup and supports many local soccer clubs, including official sponsorship of the very popular English club Manchester United. “I suppose at the end of the day, maybe there is some cannibalization of brands, but typically our experience and strength has been segmenting brands,” Burrows says. “We create a portfolio of brands, whether our own or with partners, and grow by taking share away from competitors.”