Budweiser Messi Murals spark controversy amongst netizens

Budweiser Messi Murals campaign

Budweiser campaign to depict Lionel Messi’s journey through murals across the streets of Delhi and Mumbai finds itself in controversy for replacing the previous artworks. Here’s all you need to know about the campaign, outrage, and more

As part of their latest campaign to celebrate the life of Lionel Messi, Budweiser painted murals across South Delhi’s Hauz Khas Village and Chapel Road in Bandra West. The murals depicted the journey of Lionel Messi as a part of the brand’s initiatives. However, the positioning of the murals over a school building and the murals over previously existing iconic paintings created by artists Mariusz Waras and Okuda San Miguel in 2014, has caused an uproar amongst netizens especially infuriating the artists and creators’ community.

In one of the instances, several artists from St+art India, an organization that promotes street art, raised questions on the initiative and called it ‘blatant advertising under the name of street art’ across social media platforms, calling out the brand, the agency (here, The Animal) and the artists (Wickedbroz) behind the campaign. For the mural painted on the back of the primary municipal corporation school in South Delhi’s Hauz Khas, the organization even pointed out, “It is unethical for an alcohol brand to advertise on a school wall.”

Several social media users responded to the Budweiser Messi Murals, post the stance by St+Art India, causing outrage amongst the people as they dissed the brand for carrying out the ad in the name of the popular art culture.

The Budweiser Lionel Messi murals also depicted a QR code in the right corner of the mural, providing the link to the website ‘budspace.in’, which stated that The Budweiser Road to Glory campaign is over. Most of the users voiced their concerns on the misuse or disrespect of the street art culture through the campaign.

Hanif Qureshi, Artistic Director at the Foundation shared an open message about the initiative, explaining how it has taken years to develop street art in India and how it is relevant to treat it with respect instead of hijacking it overnight.

As the dissent increased, Budweiser India issued a statement, and a brand spokesperson, shared, “We have always believed in the power of art and have worked with multiple artists over the years to build a strong foundation that is supportive towards the creator community. As part of curating these murals, we reached out to multiple artists including St+art India, and collaborated with artists that met our creative and commercial direction through these illustrations that they curated over months and even restored the wall. Our aim was always to offer an insider perspective into the G.O.A.T’s iconic journey and inspire fans through creative murals that celebrated his journey. We continue to support the creator community.”

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Even Animal India, the agency behind the campaign, came under the ire of controversy and stated on social media, “Animal is an advertising and design agency that provided the campaign idea and the designs for the artworks.” They clarified how they do not do location scouting, rentals, and permissions for walls and paintings to steer clear of the controversy.

The agency went on to share the budget quote which they had received from St+Art for the same campaign, questioning the whole ‘commercialisation of art’ argument.

While the backlash against the campaign spanned from residents, artists, and creators, many influencers from the A & M Industry also questioned the sanctity of advertising correlating it with the core of the street art and the relevance of the previous murals on the locations.

Since the earlier mural on the building by Okuda showcased spiritual capitalism; many netizens accused the brand of replacing the ‘iconic paintings with a message’ and putting the murals of Messi over it.

Some social media users also shared a neutral perspective that the brand could have chosen other locations instead of replacing the existing iconic arts that had become a part of the neighbourhoods and the communities, as part of the campaign.

Eventually, Wickedbroz, the artists behind the Budweiser murals also apologized on social media, post the massive outrage, citing, how they would never hurt the sentiments of the street art community, being a part of the communities, themselves. They also promised to continue to do meaningful projects as an ode to the community.

Though the outrage against the brand is understandable, given the legacy of the art painted on those walls, It is difficult to ascertain if the outrage is justified. What has been termed as the commercialization of art can also be seen as a window of monetization opportunity for street art creators and the owners of such life-size sites.

In the meantime, several graffiti artists defaced the mural in Delhi as per reports.