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Stella Artois taps David Beckham to restore its shine

New York CNN  —  Stella Artois, the nearly century-old brew, isn’t immune to the difficulties facing beer sales, so it’s drafting one of the world’s most recognizable personalities to help the lager return to its former glory: David Beckham. On Tuesday, the Anheuser-Busch InBev-owned brand introduced the former soccer superstar as the new face of its beer, naming Beckham as its “official ambassador” for Stella Artois. His first order of business is starring in a TV commercial. Financial terms of the deal weren’t released. A-B likely hopes Beckham’s charm revives Stella Artois, which has lost volume share in four out of the last five years in the US, as drinkers shifted their preferences away from A-B brands to other beers and even spirits. Last year, US sales for the lager dropped roughly 3%, according to Bump Williams Consulting. “It makes sense they might want to turn to an international superstar to try and give some new life to a beer that positions itself as a quasi-lifestyle brand from Europe, even though it’s brewed in the US,” Bryan Roth, an analyst for Feel Goods Company and editor of the alcohol beverage newsletter, Sightlines, told CNN. David Beckham is the new face of Stella Artois. Stella Artois Why Beckham? Beckham was chosen because he’s the “epitome of premium values,” a trait the premium beer wants to emanate, according to Richard Oppy, vice president of global brands for A-B InBev. Oppy said that Beckham has an “authentic love” for Stella Artois and the beer was attractive to him and his expanding business empire, which includes high-profile endorsement deals for high-end brands such as Tudor Watches, Maserati and Nespresso. He and his wife, Victoria Beckham, are worth more than a reported $500 million. “As an individual that has lived in many places and thrived in many different industries, David is beginning a new chapter centered around his family, travel, cooking and the moments that are worth more,” Oppy told CNN. “This was the perfect moment in time to join forces and bring that energy to life on the global stage.” In addition to signing Beckham, Oppy said that A-B has ambitious growth plans for Stella Artois to help reignite sales including holding contests for fans to have dinner with “fascinating” celebrities (last year’s event included Matt Damon and Zoe Saldana) and sponsoring high-end sporting events, like Wimbledon and Roland-Garros. Beckham joins fellow soccer superstar Lionel Messi in the A-B ambassador portfolio. The Inter Miami CF star, who plays for the Major League Soccer team that Beckham co-owns, holds a similar position for Michelob Ultra and most recently starred in a Super Bowl TV commercial for that beer. A-B’s mixed fortunes A-B recently reported record revenues for 2023, thanks in part to price increases and strong international sales. However, the bottom line was dour for its North America unit, as revenue plunged more than $1.4 billion, largely because of a sharp decline in Bud Light sales. The timing of Beckham’s announcement also coincides with retailers about to reset their shelf space for summer, when beer drinking typically rises. Bud Light is losing shelf space, according to the A-B earnings call, but that’s giving an opportunity for its other brands, such as Michelob Ultra and Stella Artois, as a replacement. “Beckham certainly gives Stella Artois the kind of top-tier recognition that A-B has historically leaned on to gain attention,” Sightline’s Roth said. “Who knows if it would reverse sales in the US, but if these brands are already growing in foreign markets, adding one of the most famous men on the planet adds fuel to that fire.” Roth believes that A-B’s partnership with Messi “was a gateway for [Stella Artois] to focus on people who are more recognizable outside America,” as evidenced by the company’s earnings that showed its popular American beers, like Michelob Ultra’s revenue rising by 7.5% outside of the US, growing faster internationally versus domestically.