A pre-Christmas football World Cup offers an unprecedented sales opportunity, says David Louis, sales & marketing director of Field Sales Solutions

The 2022 World Cup will be like no other for the off-trade. The month-long tournament, ending on December 18, creates an overlap with Christmas that means the usual in-store football promotions will compete with annual festive marketing activity. 

World Cup promotions, with accompanying stacks of beer and supporting decoration, will begin in November, and bring in-store Christmas marketing forward. The result is likely to be the two blurring together, with customers experiencing offers coming from both angles. The clash of timing will result in a fight for attention based on which of these themes is appropriate for the drinks brands concerned. 

For brand owners, having a good physical presence in-store will be more valuable than ever. For the official tournament sponsors, generating a return on their investment will be more difficult than normal. 

Because host country Qatar doesn’t allow alcohol branding in stadia, Budweiser will be invisible to TV audiences, and it may need significant extra investment to capitalise through in-store promotions. The ban doesn’t apply to official soft drink Coca-Cola, but its ambitions to make the most of the extra attention through retail promotions will be limited by the tournament falling outside of the brand’s busier summer sales peak. 

Aside from beer and cider sales, smaller off-trade retailers can expect bumper sales from another category. The summer before last, the England team’s participation in the Euros generated £2.3 billion in food and drink sales, according to the Centre For Retail Research. 

The World Cup has always resulted in high volumes of snack sales, with the lion’s share being taken by the multiple grocers. But it won’t be so easy for them this time around. A new law on promotion of high fat, salt and sugar foods restricts snack promotions in outlets of more than 2,000sq ft. 

It means that, since October 1, the supermarkets’ heavy footfall “red areas”, valued as the location for promotions, have been out of bounds to snack producers, who are restricted to their normal aisle territory. This is expected to severely limit the usual supermarket World Cup snack bonanza. 

Convenience stores and specialist off-licences below the size threshold suffer no such restrictions, which presents a great opportunity for snack sales. The combination of the World Cup and Christmas will result in off-trade retail space being at a premium as brands compete for presence and awareness, but it is a welcome challenge for store owners and managers. 

Bumper sales mean they’ll need to keep a close eye on shelves and stock levels to ensure they don’t run out. Whatever happens on the pitch in this World Cup, the off-trade will be the winner.