Case study: What the F...

By The Drum, Administrator

June 2, 2005 | 9 min read

In 2004, Tennent’s faced a challenge when competitors began investing heavily in football, a key pillar of the brand. Tennent’s has been linked closely to Scottish football for 15 years. But in 2004, the competition raised the stakes. Carlsberg paid £10million to be an official sponsor of the European Championships, and Carling announced its arrival in Scotland with a £12million sponsorship of Celtic and Rangers. With a tiny fraction of that spend, how could Tennent’s prevent its core territory being eroded?

Euro 2004 was a big opportunity for lager brands, but Tennent’s faced further problems. Namely, Scotland had not qualified. Meanwhile, Carlsberg and Carling were ploughing many more millions into football, leaving the key ATL media out of reach.

How could Tennent’s cut through the overkill of football-related communication and engage with core consumers?

The Big Problem

Euro 2004

The tournament was an opportunity for the big lager brands to target football fans. But it presented Tennent’s with many problems:

1. Holland 6 Scotland 0: Scotland failed to qualify for the second major tournament in two years. A nation of core Tennent’s drinkers was disenfranchised.

2. Tennent’s was not an official sponsor: The eight official sponsors of Euro 2004, including Carlsberg, invested £10 each to gain a prime association with the tournament.

3. Direct competition: Carling announced a £500,000 sponsorship of ITV’s flagship Euro 2004 show, hosted by Skinner and Baddiel.

4. Budgetary constraints: Tennent’s had an available marketing spend of just £80,000.

5. The stranglehold on key ATL media: All the quality a-t-l media had been bought up at grossly inflated rates.

6. Football overkill: Consumers were experiencing a proliferation of football-related messages.

7. Why Tennent’s and Euro 2004? Did Tennent’s have any right to comment on a tournament that did not involve the Scottish team?

8. Should Tennent’s bother? Would it be more prudent to abstain from the tournament and divert the ad spend elsewhere?

9. Consumer expectation: Being number one in Scotland brings with it a responsibility to the people who put you there. Tennent’s could not let Euro 2004 pass without doing something to restore the pride of the Nation’s disenfranchised football fans.


True football fans will always watch football, even if their team has not qualified. Scotland fans are no exception. Core drinkers would still tune in to the games. But how could the brand encourage its core drinkers to take an active rather than passive role in the tournament?

Well, by turning its biggest problem into its biggest advantage: Tennent’s was not an official sponsor. Therefore, the brand did not need to behave like one. Unbound by the politics of being a sponsor, and with Scotland conspicuously absent, Tennent’s was free to approach the tournament with a more objective eye. While Carling and Carlsberg adopted the official, corporate position to protect their investment in the tournament, Tennent’s could take a more fun, irreverent approach.

In short, Tennent’s could behave like a supporter, not a sponsor. The brand could adopt a unique tone of voice that none of its competitors could share.

The Creative Solution

Tennent’s would communicate with football fans in their own vernacular. It would do so using the humble football fanzine. Fanzines are written by fans for fans. They differ from the official, glossy match-day programmes in that they present a more humourous, passionate and honest account of the game. Humour, passion and honesty are three of the core values that underpin Tennent’s – a quintessentially Glaswegian brand.

Tennent’s created “What The Faro”, an online football fanzine that was positioned as “Scotland’s staying at homepage during Euro 2004”.


The whatthefaro campaign eschewed traditional ATL media, utilising a diverse range of communications channels.

1. The Website was art-directed like a handmade football fanzine. The site became the focus of all Tennent’s Euro 2004 activity. Updated constantly during the tournament, spoke to football fans in a way that no other brand could. Over 30 days, features included:

Latvia needs you: An appeal from Latvia’s ‘Minister for Fun and Games’ for Scotland fans to support the minnows.

Console a Pole: Because they didn’t qualify either.

Who’s your second team? A ridiculous quiz to determine a Scotland fan’s second team of choice.

Where are they now? Fans sent in doctored pictures of the Scotland squad, e.g. working in IKEA, while the rest of Europe played football.

Message board: The whatthefaro message board gave Scotland fans a forum to indulge in their passion for the game. Other features included: Alternative match reports, polls, downloads, tables, letters and games.

2. Online communication

Consumers were directed to whatthefaro by a series of ads on key sites. Viral e-mail was an important tool. A ‘Footballers’ Wives’ quiz was seeded virally. Fans identified the ‘wives’ from their famous football hairstyles, and were directed to the whatthefaro website. A series of ‘Any Excuse’ e-mails were sent to fans at 3pm each day, offering ludicrous reasons to support whatever teams were playing that evening.

3. Press

Tennent’s used small space press where whatthefaro could be topical. The brand also created an alternative Euro 2004 wall chart that was distributed to 650,000 fans through the Daily Record.

4. In Store

The campaign was taken to consumers who could not necessarily access the internet. 110,000 hard copy fanzines were distributed in Asda’s 34 Scottish stores. Banners and posters alerted shoppers to the free fanzine, while others advertised a whatthefaro t-shirt promotion. 14,000 t-shirts were distributed through Asda, bearing the legend: “Scotland – Undefeated at Euro 2004”.

5. In Bar

Tennent’s ‘twinned’ 16 key bars with the 16 competing nations, e.g. The Foundry in Perth was ‘twinned’ with Switzerland and decked out with whatthefaro branded Swiss flags and other ephemera. A further 70 bars participated in a free pint offer printed in the Daily Record.

6. On pack

An on-pack promotion offered consumers £10 off a TOFFS replica football shirt.

7. Ambient media

Tennent’s created a spoof travel agency in a disused shop in Glasgow, that advertised nothing but cut price flights from Scotland to Portugal during the tournament (demand for Portugal being low).

8. Online Game

In partnership with Easyjet, Tennent’s created a penalty shoot-out game with a prize of a trip for two to watch the Euro final in “some pub in a finalist’s country”, generating a valuable database.


Scotland fans had missed out on World Cup 2002 and now Euro 2004. And by June 04, the domestic season had finished. In short, Scotland fans didn’t have much to cheer about. Tennent’s, as a fabric brand, understood these fans in a way that other brands couldn’t. Despite everything, Scotland fans retained a pragmatic optimism about the national game: a smile in the face of adversity.

Solution retained the same pragmatic optimism. The site poked fun at all 16 participating teams (in a way that an official sponsor couldn’t), while offering a self-deprecating view of the Scottish game.

Restored pride

Whatthefaro presented that ‘smile in the face of adversity’ that has earned Scotland fans the reputation of being the best in the world. The campaign restored national pride.

A shared passion allowed the brand’s core consumers to express their shared passion for the game. The fully integrated campaign gave fans the opportunity to participate in an event that they might otherwise have felt excluded from. In short, whatthefaro gave Scotland fans a voice.


Nearly 60 per cent of UK adults were unaware of the eight official sponsors of Euro 2004, yet each brand paid £10million for the privilege. Unprompted awareness for sponsor brands like Canon and JVC was as low as two per cent, and Carlsberg struggled to achieve a meagre one per cent increase in sales.

In contrast, Tennent’s outperformed the competition in Scotland on a budget of £80,000.

Hall & Partners’ tracking shows that Tennent’s equalled or bettered Carling on key football measures over the period.


Tennent’s achieved its business goal of improved brand saliency by strengthening its association with football, a key pillar of the brand. Tennent’s also enjoyed a 2.16 per cent volume increase in on-trade sales (AC Nielsen: June 03–June 04). It achieved this from a position of adversity in an extremely competitive market.

Campaign Summary

The whatthefaro website was live for only 30 days in June and July 04. In that short time:

The website received 5,545,743 hits, registered visitors totalled 104,694 and 112,720 votes were cast in the main whatthefaro poll, and 536 threads were submitted to the message boards. While the website reached a global audience, registering visitors from 27 countries, including Iceland, New Zealand and Qatar.

Press & PR

The whatthefaro campaign received headline coverage in The Guardian, The Herald, The Scotsman, Daily Record and The Sun. The activity also earned valuable airtime on BBC Scotland, Real Radio, Radio Forth, Radio Clyde and Beat 106.


whatthefaro became the first ever integrated campaign to win the Grand Prix at the Scottish Advertising Awards, the judges citing that it “really pushed the craft of advertising forward.” Tennent’s was awarded Client of the Year for its innovative approach to the campaign, while the campaign was presented an effectiveness honour at the Marketing Excellence Awards.


Tennent’s will always have competitors trying to out-muscle it in spend. But there is no brand better placed to understand the consumer in Scotland. Tennent’s proved this during Euro 2004 when it punched well above its weight, simply by behaving like a supporter, not a sponsor. By thinking creatively and implementing a truly integrated approach to media, the brand achieved cut-through and engaged with football fans in a way that no other brand could. Tennent’s played to its strengths, enabling the brand to increase brand saliency and cement the consumer loyalty that keeps it at number one in Scotland.


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