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Carlsberg Beer Sports Marketing

How Carlsberg made you want beer at Euro 2016 despite being legally forbidden from using its branding


By John McCarthy, Opinion editor

July 6, 2016 | 5 min read

Danish beer brand Carlsberg, an official sponsor of Euro 2016, has arguably enjoyed a strong tournament boasting extensive sales and brand recognition from its exclusivity, video content and social media engagements. Admirable seeing as it is restricted from using the Carlsberg branding in stadiums due to French advertising legislation.



Loi Evin, a French law forbidding the advertising of alcohol or cigarettes connected with sports events, sparked a brand gambit seeing the Danes run with the ‘Probably’ tagline on its allocated stadia ad space. It takes a certain level of confidence to edge away from your logo - a move few companies could pull off.

Viewer recall sits at fifty per cent, supposedly higher than McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, according to research from the company. On the slogan front, only McDonald’s ‘I’m lovin’ It’ trumped ‘Probably’ and ‘…The Best in the World’ for recall.


So what is Carlsberg doing? Beyond brand recognition, the sponsorship granted Carlsberg beer sales exclusivity in the fan zones (It sold 6,100 half litres up to the first round of 16) and stadia (3,300 half litres).

On the content front, its crown jewel for the tournament is a slot recreating the French revolution with French legend Marcel Desailly exclaiming ‘Let Them Drink Beer’.

It built on the ad with a stunt offering free tickets to the Euros. Fans only had to follow a chap around town... for a few hours (see below). It was a funny stunt that tested the determination of participants.

The content kept on coming, most recently the brewer debuted the Breathalyzela, a fun twist on the vuvuzela that plagued that 2010 World Cup.

On top of its own material, the Carlsberg negotiated unprecedented access to Euro match footage to bolster its Man of the Match and Goal of the Tournament activations that are doing the rounds on social media. A fascinating stat, 56 per cent of the Icelandic population reportedly watched Carlsberg’s Goal of the Round video after the Vikings toppled England. No doubt this was replicated by passionate fans in other nations to some extent.

Furthermore, one can only surmise how much reach the brewer’s witty Twitter wager with Iceland (the supermarket) received in the wake of the England/Iceland game, showing that the brand also has a handle on the reactive marketing side.

Uefa maintains a tight grip upon merchandising in France but Carlsberg has somewhat cheekily side-stepped this issue by distributing unofficial fan shirts and merchandise abroad.

The Carlsberg branded shirts crop up in France on England, Ireland and Iceland fans.


Richard Whittey, senior marketing manager for Carlsberg, argued that it’s the brand’s authenticity and history with football (it’s been a Euro sponsor since 1988) that makes it an authority on the subject and helps it stand out from rivals, both in the alcohol sector and against the official sponsors it is ultimately competing against.

Whittey said: “Our heritage in football has been long established and we’re a beer brand above anything so when we are involved in football our prime involvement is all about the fans, how we can do football better for the fans.


“Beer and football go hand in hand, it’s a big beer occasion and certainly the biggest one in 2016 so you will also see other brands try and compete in the same space. We want to focus on what we do is right, if we get it right. Football is a well-trodden ground. We’re competing with the likes of Nike and Beats as much as we are other beer brands. Anything that we do must have the right amount of cut through."

He concluded: “There are lots of brands trying to make the most of this talkable occasion. We have to have something to say, and say it with credibility and authenticity.”

The key, he argued, is that his a “smallish” team is proud of the product, its heritage and it’s longstanding place in football. You’ve got to know the market, respect the tournament’s history and make efforts to improve the sport for the fans.

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