AB InBev has announced plans to temporarily rebrand ‘JUPILER’ as ‘BELGIUM’ in support of the ‘Red Devils’, Belgium’s national football team, in the forthcoming 2018 World Cup. Novagraaf’s Pascaline Debois examines the trademark implications.

This is not the first time that AB InBev has temporarily ‘rebranded’ one of its well-known beers. Previously, BUDWEISER has appeared as ‘AMERICA’ in the US, and CORONA as ‘MEXICO’ in Mexico.

The brewery group is making use of the concept of ‘fluid’ trademarks, a practice also recognised in trademark case law across the Atlantic, to support Belgium in this year’s Football World Cup in Russia. AB InBev’s Jupiler has been a sponsor of the Red Devils for 30 years.

A mark is said to be ‘fluid’ when, in terms of use, it can be substantially and regularly modified in relation to the manner in which it is registered, without its distinctive character being altered. A key example of this can be found with the mark GOOGLE, which transforms its logo on its homepage every day (the Google Doodles).

Marketing potential

For a brand to make use of this practice, certain elements of the mark need to be sufficiently well known, so that when other elements are completely transformed, the consumer will still identify with certainty the origin of the product or service concerned (this is precisely the primary function of a trademark).

Another example can be found in ‘Make me yours’, a recent marketing campaign by Ferrero Rocher, in which it replaced the brand NUTELLA, on its famous jars of chocolate spread, with the first names of consumers or by particular messages. It did so while maintaining the graphics of its initial brand, thus maintaining brand recognition.

COCA-COLA has also used other (non-distinctive) words on its products, while maintaining its distinctive font and graphics to ensure that the drink is recognised as such by consumers.

AB InBev has adhered to the same rules in its temporary rebrand of JUPILER. The recognisable graphic and logo remain on the beers; only the word element has changed. Indeed, it is precisely the fact that JUPILER has both a strong brand and a long-standing association with the Red Devils that makes the marketing campaign work so well.