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Case Studies


How SAB Miller expanded into Europe

How SAB Miller expanded into Europe

This is not a traditional story of marketing capability building over a long sustained period of time. It is about transformation in five short years.

Between 1999 and 2005, our business exploded.


 - A South African based brewing company (volumes* of 53 m hls)
 - 34 000+ employees in 21 countries
 - Operational excellence and people management as core competencies


 - One of top three global brewing giants (volumes of 148 m hls)
 - 50 000+ employees in over 60 countries
 - Brands at centre of corporate agenda with marketing recognised as a core competence

Seen in marketing capability terms, we began with:

 - Little marketing expertise or even processes to export from South Africa
 - As many different approaches to managing brands as we had countries
 - Limited best practice to share or learn from
 - Operations in predominantly developing economies (Africa/Asia/Central and Eastern Europe), offering very limited pool of marketing talent

Today we have:

 - Common global approach to marketing and brand building
 - Core, mandated processes to ensure best practise in existing and new markets
 - Community of marketing experts supported by strategic people resourcing plan and global capability development programmes
 - Focus on the basics and leading edge initiatives with real competitive advantage
 - Growing pool of internal marketing talent for transfer globally
 - How did we do this in just 5 years? In a nutshell - simply, pragmatically and on a budget of less than £5 m.

This case study will outline the three phases we have been through, highlighting the challenges in creating and managing a global programme in an exploding but highly decentralised organisation.


Business Focus: Expansion into Europe

Marketing Challenge: Organise acquired brands into portfolios of strong, healthy brands with long term sustainability

Off a strong market position in South Africa we had already made modest entries into 6 Central/Eastern European markets. Listing on the LSE in 1999 marked the start of a strategy to expand our international beer operations.

Accessing newly available capital, we consolidated positions in key developing markets, as well as expanding to India and Central America.

This was done by purchasing in most cases a number of small breweries, each with their own portfolio of brands, which were then combined into one operation.

At this time, we relied heavily on a deep talent pool in South Africa to manage these new territories and build a common culture.

Traditionally strong capabilities in operations and performance management became the "glue" that rolled out across the ever-expanding footprint.

However, despite our considerable success in our primary market, we had a major gap – very little marketing talent, expertise or even processes to export.


Marketing Capability Response: Develop a common approach based on best practice for local marketing teams

Result: The Marketing Way, a set of basic processes, tools and templates covering the marketing cycle.

Encountering well-established global competitors for the first time emphasised how underdeveloped our marketing abilities were.

To begin addressing the situation, ex-patriots marketing directors were hired in most markets. But, without an established marketing culture and framework to adapt to, each established their own processes.

The benefits of a common approach were blindingly obvious:

 - Improve marketing skills.
 - Aid better marketing solutions.
 - Common way of working, single language, unified culture.
 - Continuity and consistency.
 - Increases value of return on investments.

In 2000, the first formally documented set of processes, "The SAB Marketing Way" were launched.

Using the experience of marketing directors, we combined best practise in analysis, strategy & planning, implementation and measurement into one coherent story.

A series of basic training programmes for brand managers followed to bring the new framework to life.

A European Marketing Directors Forum was established to debate and drive a shared agenda across the region. Soon representatives from other regions joined.

We had a small but significant beachhead.


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