Inside Track by Ben McFarland
Football tournaments are to beer what New Year’s Eve is to Champagne and there’s no other sporting event that quite boosts beer sales like the World Cup. Unsurprisingly the “football occasion” is one that beer dominates (it’s hard to imagine the vast majority of England fans gawping at the big match on a plasma screen with a glass of Merlot or a muddled Mojito in hand). Looking back at data from previous football tournaments show that beer sales in both the on and the off-trade soar higher than a Chris Waddle penalty kick. Carlsberg UK predicts that the incremental category opportunity for the off-trade and on-trade will be 200,000 barrels/£60m and 80,000 barrels/£50m respectively. The last major football tournament, Euro 2004, was unique in that it was the first time, driven by heavy promotional mechanics in the multiples, that the balance of beer sales had shifted from the on-trade to the off. According to Carlsberg UK – purveyor of the official beer of England - beer buyers in supermarkets spent more per head on beer during Euro 2004 than the previous Christmas (TNS 2004) while the same research revealed that 63% of people prefer to watch England in the comfort of their own home. Darran Britton, marketing director for Carlsberg UK, said: “With 64 matches in one month, the World Cup tournament provides huge opportunities for retailers. Research shows that even before Euro 2004 started, trade sales had increased dramatically – over 100,000 more barrels of beer were sold in the take home market than in the same period the previous year.” According to Britton, total monthly beer sales for June 2004 were the highest (outside Christmas trading) since before the Millennium, equating to approximately an extra 94m pints when compared with the hotter June of 2003. Even though the on-trade only represented just over a third of increased beer sales during the last big festival of fancy football, the urge to go to the pub and watch England (underachieve and burst the bubble of hope with a depressingly predictable quarter-final exit) is still a strong one for consumers. According to the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), a single England match can generate an increase of between £20m to £30m on the normal sector turnover of £60m per day and boost beer sales by between four and six million pints. Weekend games can draw even bigger crowds and bigger rewards. The Denmark versus England game, during the 2002 World Cup in Japan, helping push daily turnover to more than £100m, with an extra 12 million pints pulled that day. The BBPA’s estimates that around six million people will be watching the opening game against Paraguay in the pub, equating to 11 million extra pints of beer. With England’s second match against Trinidad & Tobago scheduled at a slightly more awkward time, the BBPA is predicting a pub crowd of four million and an extra eight million pints. The final group game against Sweden, an evening kick-off on Tuesday 20 June, is expected to rival the Paraguay game in terms of extra pints and punters. What happens after that is very difficult to predict. Suffice to say the longer that England stay in the competition in Germany the better it is for brewers and pubs. On hearing of Wayne Rooney’s metatarsal disaster, few will have thrust their heads into their hands in more despair than the bean-counters at pub companies and leading brewers. Carlsberg UK’s analysis of previous tournaments shows a clear correlation between England success and beer volumes – as soon as England are out of the tournament sales return very quickly to normal in both the on and off trade. Interest is maintained in the tournament by football fans but it is England games that generate large scale drinking occasions. In the on-trade during Euro 2004, for example, sales for the week of the final were 3% below the weekly average volume for the year. Average TV audience for England’s games during Euro 2004 was 25.2m (50% higher than for the final - Portugal versus Greece). What’s more, during USA 94, when England didn’t qualify, there was no discernible uplift from the tournament despite the kick off times being designed for evening transmission in Europe yet compounded by cool summer temperatures here. During Euro ’96 June volumes were 200,000 barrels up on the monthly average for the year. When England beat Argentina in a group game held at around midday on a Friday in 2002, few returned to the office. Sales within the Punch Taverns business were between 10% and 15% higher than a normal Friday. Ironic then, that the beer and on-trade takings this summer may well rest on the shoulders of Theo Walcott, someone who’s not yet old enough to buy a pint in a pub.