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by By Leo Jakobson | January 21, 2014
The Platinum Plan
A major new product launch is always a time when incentive programs are tested. In late 2012, Anheuser-Busch introduced Bud Light Platinum, an extension of the Bud Light line, which featured a slightly higher alcohol content and cobalt blue bottle.

With the company betting big on the new brand, the launch incentive’s budget made it one of the largest Anheuser-Busch had ever done. The company “supported the introduction with an incentive and prizes that matched the extreme excitement of the new brand: eight fully loaded Ford F150 Platinum edition vehicles,” says Thomasine Joyce, the brewer’s sales incentive manager, tech sales. Halfway through the program excitement had grown so much that three more vehicles were added.

At the regional level, two wholesalers in each of the eight regions were awarded a platinum home theatre package that included a large-screen TV, speakers, leather furniture, popcorn machine, and more. In addition, the top three wholesalers per region, per volume group — 72 in all — received gift cards in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.

The program’s success shows in the numbers: The new brand volume versus budget was more than 300 percent.
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In 2013, there were many compelling entries for Incentive’s Fifth Annual Motivation Masters Awards, which took place between Jan. 1, 2012, and March 31, 2013. The programs covered a wide range of disciplines, from internal sales and employee engagement to channel sales programs.

This year’s Grand Motivation Master Award winner was Anheuser-Busch’s massive Game Plan incentive program, which covers national campaigns that are closely coordinated with major marketing efforts like the Bud Light Fast Start/Super Bowl campaign, as well as the launch of the Bud Light Platinum brand. The three-tiered program also includes regional campaigns aligned with both national and regional marketing initiatives, and local campaigns using both national and regional marketing campaigns as well as local key performance indicators. It also covers in-house sales incentive programs.

For a look at the winning programs in the Motivation Masters' Engagement and Recognition category and the Sales Incentives category, click here.


Wholesaler incentives are big business for Anheuser-Busch, whose Bud Light and Budweiser brands are the top two selling beers in the U.S., and the company plans for them to stay on top. “We have seen the momentum incentives have built,” says Mike Marusic, senior manager of tech sales for Anheuser-Busch. “The results speak for themselves. Small success as well as large success keeps the ball rolling, and keeps the excitement and focus for our wholesaler family. It’s easy to get sidetracked in a business like ours where the competition is fierce, but a program that keeps the entire system focused on the same goal is extremely important.”

Big Bets on the Game Plan
The points-based Game Plan incentive program platform is the backbone on which all of the company’s incentive programs are built, so a lot of thought, effort, and money is invested in making sure they are the best they can be.

Game Plan wholesaler incentives are focused around annual Big Bet marketing campaigns determined by senior management, and can include major sponsorships such as the Super Bowl as well as seasonal campaigns, like the big push during the summer beer-drinking season.

Thomasine Joyce A-B
“Each Big Bet has a 360-degree activation plan supported by components such as sales incentives, social media, trade promotions, packaging innovations, and execution objectives,” says Thomasine Joyce, Anheuser-Busch’s incentive project manager of tech sales. “There are typically five to seven Game
Plan incentives tied to Big Bets running in a calendar year.”

Game Plan wholesaler incentives are broken down into three levels:

National Game Plan incentives focus on Big Bets such as the Bud Light Fast Start around the Super Bowl, which runs throughout January and February. These focus Anheuser-Busch’s entire sales system around a set marketing calendar, and target wholesaler sales managers.

Regional Priority Incentives are aligned with national Big Bets but also allow a focus on regional marketing priorities, like Busch Beer’s sponsorship of the Major League Fishing for bass anglers. These target wholesaler sales team leads.

Local Wholesaler Incentives are aligned with national Big Bets and Regional Priorities, as well as local key performance indicators. These target wholesaler’s sales representatives. They are often created directly by wholesalers, using the Game Plan platform. They use co-op budgets that Anheuser-Busch matches dollar for dollar.

“The objectives of all three levels are to motivate sales personnel to drive results and to recognize high achievers,” Joyce says.

The Game Plan platform uses points redeemable for merchandise, gift cards, and cash, among other prizes. “There are hundreds of prizes to choose from in the Game Plan platform redemption site,” Joyce adds. “Wholesaler sales reps like to accumulate their points through the year and redeem for large items, or they save for something specific.” Joyce notes that in the current economy, cash redemptions have been high, with the next largest category being electronics, followed by home goods.

At least once a year, an internal sales incentive program is created for Anheuser-Busch’s internal salesforce. These are performance-based, on a state-by-state basis, and use a dream trip as the reward.

Down the Line
“Our summer incentive is the biggest of the year, as summer is a key selling season for beer,” says Joyce. In 2012, the Big Bet was built around the Bud Light Port Paradise Music Festival, a consumer sweepstakes that took 5,000 Bud Light fans on a four-day, three-night November cruise to the Atlantis Paradise Island resort for a concert festival featuring a half dozen major acts, including Pitbull, Brad Paisley, and Flo Rida.

The National Game Plan incentive was a VIP experience on the Bud Light Port Paradise trip. It focused on sales managers at the company’s 500-plus wholesalers, with three winners per region, per volume group, based on volume sales trends of Budweiser and Bud Light, and also based on execution of displays, taps and point-of-connection materials. There were 72 winners, plus guests, on the trip. Anheuser-Busch saw a 7-percent increase in volume over the previous year, Joyce says.

At the regional level, the Crash the Party incentive flew 250 sales team leaders to the Atlantis Paradise Island resort for a four-day, three-night stay, including concert tickets. The criteria for qualifying were similar to the National Game Plan, but specifics were determined region-by-region and also included in-store promotions and shelf space.

At the local level, wholesalers aligned their incentives around the Big Bet and used the same criteria, but the sales representatives received points good for travel, electronics, gift cards, and home goods, among other awards. 

Additionally, there was another Crash the Party incentive offered to internal Anheuser-Busch field sales representatives, with the same prize as for the regional-level winners. The northeast region beat out the other seven regions, and all of its field sales reps attended the trip.

“This kind of alignment helps keep the entire system focused on the same set of brands and criteria with amazing impact,” Joyce says.

One key to this kind of alignment is an extensive communications program, she adds. The company’s marketing site for wholesalers is the program’s central portal where participants can see program details and results, and it links to all past communications. “We also announce incentives and incentive final results via email and on our weekly news shows via the Busch Satellite Network,” he says. “We conduct monthly webcast meetings with wholesalers.” And because each wholesaler has a sign-making operation it uses for retail accounts, Anheuser-Busch also “provides wholesalers with a poster template that they can hang in their sales rooms,” Joyce adds. “It’s exciting when you are visiting a wholesaler and you walk through the sales room and see all of the excitement surrounding the signs.”

Public recognition of winners is another key, Joyce says. “Wholesaler winners receive congratulations from their field sales representative in person, then a formal letter from the vice president of sales goes out announcing winners to the entire wholesaler sales system,” Joyce adds. Finally, winners are brought up on stage during the annual wholesaler meeting and their names are scrolled on the big presentation screen.

“We want to not only reward outstanding performance, but recognize achievements along the way to further drive results,” she says.