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Case Studies


How SAB Miller expanded globally

How SAB Miller expanded globally

GLOBAL EXPANSION (2002 – 2004)

Business Focus: Become a significant global player in the industry

Marketing Challenge: Manage portfolios in existing and newly acquired businesses to commanding local and international market positions.

During this period SAB acquired the second largest brewing company in the US, Miller Brewing prompting name change to SABMiller plc. The group became the world’s second largest brewer (by volume).

This also marked a fundamental shift in company culture. In one deal the size of the company virtually doubled. For the first time we were exposed to a business in a sophisticated, developed economy. 6000 new employees joined overnight including around 50 new marketing folk.

We further expanded interests in China and Poland and made our first acquisition in Western Europe in Italy.

Developments in Europe had demonstrated the powerful contribution of marketing. The broader business now showed a real interest in brands and marketing.

A Group Marketing Director (GMD) was appointed in 2002. With a seat on the Executive Committee, this demonstrated to employees, shareholders and competitors that marketing was now firmly on the corporate growth agenda.

With a seat on the Executive Committee, this demonstrated to employees, shareholders and competitors that marketing was now firmly on the corporate growth agenda.


Marketing Capability Response: Basic processes were just not enough – we needed a strategy for building marketing capability.

Basic processes were just not enough – we needed a strategy for building marketing capability.

Result: A holistic strategy, still in place today. 
The challenge we faced now was pretty sobering………….

 - 400 marketing people in over 30 countries.
 - Culturally, all different. For most, English is a second or third language.
 - Marketing expertise at every level you could imagine
 - Economies that ranged from developed to developing
 - Over 150 Brands, every shape and size (including 5 of the top 50 beer global brands), in varying states of health
 - Established global competitors who had been at this for a while!
 - Central Resources, limited – one person, small budget and a very decentralised business
 - Need to not just build the floor but simultaneously start to raise the ceiling

Within two years, the following was in place:

A Marketing Directors Council comprising all regional marketing directors, chaired by the GMD.

A Group Marketing function with 5 key focus areas, one of which was:

Marketing Capabilities –people, process and skills

This resulted in:

 - Appointment of a Marketing Development Director (MDD) to establish and embed best practise, develop a strategy for managing marketing talent and build sharing networks.
 - A formal partnership with specialist marketing capability building company, Brand Learning. Their model drove our initial thinking around a capability strategy and continues to do so today.


A total overhaul of The Marketing Way with enhanced content and user-friendly presentation. Changes were driven by feedback from local marketing teams with new material developed jointly with volunteer local marketing directors.


Appointment of two specialists to drive best practise:

Group Head of Insights
Brand Communications Director


 - A central database of all marketing personnel

 - First draft of skill development tools for brand management

 - Establishing career path options


Introduction of annual marketing excellence recognition awards, Mercatus Awards, to celebrate marketing work that had driven business results.

Roll out of a suite of centrally developed training programmes focused on Brand Positioning, Brand Building, Portfolio Development and Innovation.

An intranet site to provide a home for information, tools and resources for the marketing community. 

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