Carlsberg to expand premium push in 2018 as doing things 'The Danish Way' pays off

Last year, the beer giant made a commitment to do things ‘The Danish Way’ in the UK / Carlsberg

Carlsberg is to continue with the ‘premiumisation’ of its beer portfolio following a year of step change which has seen the brand invest in hygge-inspired cinematic creative and end its reign as the ‘Official Beer of England’.

In the next 12 months, the Copenhagen-based brewer will not only refresh “sleeping giants” like Tetley’s ale, but also has big plans to add to the Carlsberg range and funnel more spend into music partnerships.

Last year, the beer giant made a commitment to do things ‘The Danish Way’ in the UK, resetting its marketing with a sleek £15m Mads Mikkelsen-fronted campaign that placed an emphasis on its heritage.

The initiative, which has since gone global, was focused on its premium Carlsberg Export brand, and the brewer has now revealed that the campaign reached 100 million adults in the UK. It has also helped to drive sales across the on and off-trade by 20% and up purchase consideration by 8% since its launch last April.

The figures come 12 months after the question of whether Carlsberg could really push its status as a quality lager after years of being firmly associated with football and, in years gone by, lad culture, was raised. Now, Mikkelsen is set to return to screens in May to build upon the success the advertiser’s push to providence has brought.

“It’s the start of a journey for us on Export, you don’t turn around a brand overnight,” said Carlsberg marketing controller, Lynsey Woods.

According to Millward Brown data, 71% of consumers agree that Export is ‘good to be seen drinking’ and over the past 12 months there has been a 4% uplift in the number of people who thought that the beer ‘tasted better’, despite the fact the recipe remains the same.

Carlsberg Unfiltered

Far from getting complacent, however, the brewer is continuing to invest in broadening its brand portfolio, with Woods revealing during a media briefing that the brand plans to launch a Carlsberg Unfiltered edition.

Following on from the debut of its Carlsberg 1883 in the on-trade in 2017 (a modern recreation of its original dark lager recipe) the Unfiltered product (with purified yeast left in) will tap into the adventurous palette the craft beer movement has inspired in consumers.

Here, Carlsberg has spotted an opportunity to lure in more intrepid drinkers via a label they recognise in an area where it claims 70% of sales are still lager-driven.

“What craft has helped to do is open doors and help consumers want to taste, try and experience more," said Woods. "But when you look at ‘mainstream craft’ there is a definitely a gap of people who want to explore and discover but they are a bit scared.

“The range of choice can be overwhelming, so for Carlsberg we want to make sure we play the role of that big brand that [consumers] can trust that’s bringing variety to the category.”

The ‘Official Beer of England’ no more

Away from products and on to partnerships; after 22 years as the sponsor of the England national football team, Carlsberg announced it was to hang up its boots earlier this month.

At the time the beer group’s vice-president of brands, Liam Newton, cited the desire to “broaden its partnerships” as the reason for ending the contract.

To this end, the Carlsberg and Carlsberg Export brands will shift their focus towards live music, with the company running on-pack promotions on the side of six million packs of the booze in 2018 along with festival promoter Live Nation. The brand will also be the official beer of festivals like Wireless and Trnsmt, as it was last year.

Answering a question from The Drum at yesterday’s media event (26 March), Netwon discussed why it was the right time to end the England deal, ultimately paving the way for Budweiser to swoop in.

“From a Live Nation point of view, if you think about where the market is evolving to, and consumers are becoming much more led by experiences, that is a richer area for us to invest in.”

He added: “It’s important to say, we’re not turning our back on football, we have a big long-term partnership with Liverpool FC, and we’re the official beer partner at eight premier league football clubs. So that [focus] hasn’t gone away, it’s just about emphasis.

"Carlsberg needs to evolve into a new space and we have an opportunity to do that with music festivals but people coming together to enjoy a beer over football is still something we can enjoy and be part of, but not necessarily as a headline sponsor.”

Newton also outlined how, across the group, investments will be made to build brand equity around "sleeping giants" like Tetley's amber cask ale and New York-based Brooklyn Brewery – with which it has a distribution deal in a number of markets.

Tetley's has already been afforded a new design and logo with a campaign to come later in the year. Brooklyn, meanwhile, will be bringing its limited edition Korean-inspired Naranjito orange edition to the UK this summer.

Last year, Carlsberg snapped up and relaunched local brewer London Fields. In partnership with Brooklyn Brewery it will develop a series of "experimental" "one-of-a-kind" brews to grab drinkers' attention.

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