The beer offers that are coming home to roost

You may have heard by now that it’s coming home. Football, that is. For one or two people in the beer business, there’s also the possibility that chickens are coming home too – to roost.

The diverse operations of AB-Inbev’s Budweiser and traditional Surrey ale brewer Hogs Back both rashly made promises of free beer when the World Cup began – the latter if England made it to the final, the former if they actually went and won the thing.

Of course, both promises were made back in those hazy days when most reasonable expectations had England stumbling through the group stages to face the customary second round exit, a time before most of us realised that we had an actually-quite-good team managed by a cross between 1997-vintage Tony Blair and Bertrand Russell.

The realisation that fate may be about to bestow the status of legends on Gareth Southgate’s young squad has forced each brewer to face up to the implications of their pledges – or at least gain a bit of extra PR from the whole shebang while the going remains good.

For Hogs Back this meant a press release to the effect that managing director Rupert Thompson “may be the only Englishman crying into his beer” should the planets align, though for now the accompanying visual merely shows him mugging quizzically to camera while stroking his chin and holding a pocket calculator, the very presence of which will surely bring similar looks of bafflement from craft beer-drinking millennials who recognise the object’s form only from an icon on their smartphone.

For Hogs Back, the inbuilt damage limitation of the pledge is that the offer of a free pint applies only when buying beer in its brewery shop on Saturday, a significant financial disincentive to anyone living more than a few miles away given current petrol prices.

Budweiser has deeper pockets and its offer is appropriately universal in its geographic reach. Register on a dedicated website and you can get a voucher and notification of when the offer goes live, just in case you miss the news that England have won the World Cup. If the 2.0 version of the Bud PR hype about its promise is to be believed, AB-Inbev has already started ramping up production in anticipation of just such an eventuality. It can only be hoped that the move doesn’t lead to a pipeline of stale beer, especially for a brand where “freshness” has formed a significant plank of its past marketing activity.

A lot of things have to happen if the brand is to end up giving away “millions of bottles of free beer”: England have to beat Croatia; England have to beat France; significant millions of people have to hear about the offer; significant numbers of them have to be excited enough by the outside chance of a free bottle of Bud to want to register for the voucher; and, in turn, significant numbers of them have to remember or be bothered to cash in their voucher.

Anyway it is coming home. Jason Warner, AB-Inbev’s UK and Ireland’s president, says so, and when it does I shall be following his exhortations to “party like it’s 1966”. I have Vesta Chow Mein and cans of Mackeson stout at the ready. And, just like 1966, there’s not a bottle of Bud in sight.

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