What do a president and a beer brand have in common?

AmBev v. Zika – the power of Brazilian cause marketing
You would have to have been on another planet not to have seen not the international  coverage of the Brazilian Zika crisis over the last three months. What you may not have seen are the many initiatives of domestic Brazilian brands and public figures, using the crisis as a communications platform. But what do a president and beer company have in common?

The most obvious, albeit brief, beneficiary of the crisis was the beleaguered President Dilma, who wasted no time in rallying for political unity, declaring “war” on the mosquito. For a short period this seemed to work, as her terminally low approval ratings saw a slight lift. But this was only ever going to be fleeting in the face of ever louder calls for her impeachment and the continuing developments of operation Lava Jato (car wash), most notably last week’s brief questioning of former president Lula.

A far more successful exponent has been AmBev, the largest drinks business in Latin America, and owner of old Brazilian staples such as Brahma, Skol and Antartica.

The two are not as disconnected as you might think.

Ambev – #naoficoparado

AmBev too has not been without its challenges in the last year. Brazil is its second biggest market and the weakened economy has had an inevitable effect on beer sales. Unlike the President Dilma though, its response to the Zika crisis has been altogether more impactful and and mobilised.

As part of its “I won´t stand still” #naoficoparado campaign, its 32,000 employees have been given time to distribute more than two million leaflets and posters in bars and restaurants across the country, while breweries and distribution centres are being incentivised to come up with their own initiatives to combat the virus.

Across social media, the company is using celebrity fronters such as Preta Gil and Ticiane Pinheiro, to spread informative health videos and posts under the hashtag, while players from the state football championships entered the field for last weekend´s games carrying campaign messages.

The campaign reached its peak yesterday with a major TV campaign fronted by Brazilian comedian and television personality Sabrina Sato. The campaign features the tag line “Pior que água parada é você parado – vamos virar esse jogo” (inelegantly translated, “worse than halted water is a halted you, let´s turn this around”) featuring a sequence of actors turning over bottles, pots, old tires any containers that hold water, breeding sites for the Aedes mosquito.

The power of political rhetoric

Two things are striking in the campaign. First, the fact that it features no product shots or brand names, openly saying at one point that though the commercial was originally intended for AmBev products,  AmBev is “doing its part” and has “space for this movement” through its ads and posters.

Second, that the language and rhetoric used are markedly political in their overtones.

Voiced by various actors, the script reads “history has shown that together we can face any problem…it will not be a mosquito brings us down” [something that could have come from Dilma herself last month] continuing, perhaps more in keeping with the public mood, “this is a revolution that starts in the streets. That starts indoors”.

With major manifestaçoes (protest demonstrations) planned in the streets of the country´s cities this weekend, and the inevitable pot banging panelaços to follow from people´s kitchens, the campaign could not be better placed in terms of the current political temper.

In a country where large companies are famous for slow-moving bureaucracy, and where political reference is, to say the least, risky territory for any brand, this is classic example of the kind cause marketing that Brazil does differently to any country in the world.

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