Whatever the outcome of tomorrow’s final, one thing is for sure: there won’t be any tears streaking down the faces of England’s food and drink retailers and manufacturers over what might have been. Euro 2004 has marked one of the most concerted collective efforts by the industry to cash in on the St George cross daubed football frenzy of the last month.
Most retailers admit to having poured far more money into this tournament than the World Cup - be it on the ubiquitous flags and football related paraphernalia, in-store booze, snack and ready meal promotions or football related advertising campaigns. And, bar the slump post Black Thursday, the early signs are that their efforts produced the result everyone was looking for with beer, spirits and wine the best scorers.
Fuelled by the football fever that grabbed the nation, the good weather and the convenient tea-time kick-offs, the supermarkets took a healthy slice of the £400m uplift in sales enjoyed by retailers during the competition as estimated by the British Retail Consortium. Sainsbury, the Official England Supermarket, drew up its strategy 18 months ago and kicked off its campaign on May 12. It even went so far as to redesign the store layout so that football memorabilia was confined to a special loop in the store allowing shoppers who didn’t share the national zeal for the game to steer clear.
Apart from its derided corporate ad featuring Frank Lampard, its tactics scored pretty highly with shoppers. The chain says it saw a massive uplift in all the obvious categories such as ready meals, pizzas, beer and champagne. In the run-up to the penalty shootout with Portugal it sold 100,000 pizzas, two million bottles of beer and 65,000 ready meals - having seen a steady increase in sales as the tournament progressed. It also shifted a massive 12 million items of memorabilia, such as flags and whistles. But by far its biggest success was its official England medal collection promotions run with Persil, Dolmio and Coca-Cola, among others.
It wasn’t only the official sponsor that walloped the ball into back of the net. The footy clearly raised amorous as well as patriotic spirits and at Asda shoppers intent on scoring in the game of love sent sales of condoms soaring 24%. The retailer also did brisk trade in St George cross emblazoned boxer shorts.
Meanwhile, beer and wine sales surged 60% on match days, forcing Asda to ask the breweries to supply direct. “It was brewed one day and on our shelves next to meet the demand,” says a spokeswoman. Sales of champagne rose 18% week on week, although the momentum only really gathered as the competition progressed and fans decided results were worth celebrating, she says.
Booze was a predictable winner all round, Tesco incredibly selling more than one million cases of beer in the run-up to the Portugal game alone. “The tournament as a whole was definitely bigger than previous football tournaments,” says its spokeswoman.
The similar time zone proved to be a blessing for retailers after the headache of the World Cup and convenience was very much the name of the game, with pizzas, ready meals, crisps and snacks selling well across the board, particularly during first couple of weeks of the tournament.
John Sharpe, Nisa-Today’s central distribution services MD, adds: “People really got behind it this year. The warm weather helped. We made sure the demand for ready-meal solutions was well addressed.”
Non-food also tapped in some easy winners. At Asda, sales of TVs and home cinema surround-sound systems shot up 32% one week as fans upgraded their equipment to ensure nothing went wrong with the audio-visuals. And canvas deckchairs replaced the sofa as the furniture of choice as people recreated the outdoor atmosphere in the living room.
Another unlikely boom category was flowers - Tesco and Sainsbury both successfully tweaking the consciences of fans returning to their football widows.
Lateral thinking certainly helped but so did some canny advertising initiatives. Spar’s two key customer groups are housewives and 18 to 44-year-old men and in a bid to win over the latter, it spent £750,000 on a TV advertising campaign, the one featuring a dog with a newspaper in its mouth revealing the day’s football results, as well as a tie-up with radio station Talk Sport to promote its Spar Real Deal of the Day.
Simon Fisher, advertising and promotions manager says: “It’s been great to have full multi-media coverage. The key thing we wanted to get with Talk Sport was a credible link with football.”
Not everyone was bothered about credibility and after England’s exit from the competition, a few must have been ruing the day they’d ordered shelf loads of Euro 2004 mini fridges. But the overall verdict was that this was one of the most successful campaigns ever for England’s food retail and manufacturing players - if not, sadly, but oh so predictably, for the football squad.
Sainsbury took Frank Lampard and his dad to a Jamie Oliver barbecue, Shredded Wheat brought us re-runs of old Clough and Charlton ads and Carling pitched skins against shirts in a street footy match.
Love them or loathe them, it has been impossible to switch on the box without being overwhelmed by ads with a football theme over the past month. For many of us, there were only so many times we could watch the same international stars kick a ball round a house/amphitheatre/global pitch before they all dissolved into one. Indeed, that particular set play may unwittingly have generated one or two own goals as there was always the risk, with so many similar ads, that all that ends up getting promoted is the event itself.
But there were just a few ads that stood out from the “was that for sports gear or a soft drink?” crowd. Here are our choices for the best - and worst - of the tournament’s TV players.
As football fantasies go, Carlsberg’s “probably the best flatmates in the world” takes some beating: bloke gets shown round flat, introduced to two “stunna” flatmates before being shown his palatial “box room” and enjoying a beer on the balcony...which overlooks the stadium. It was the resounding winner at The Grocer. Our verdict? The funniest ad on TV.
And the worst…
Plenty of Euro 2004 ads were in the running for the red card. Persil with Michael Owen was not a favourite with our team, neither was the Frank Lampard and dad ad for Sainsbury. But our least favourite ad was the McDonald’s parody on yob culture. Not only did this fail to hit the spot as a parody, it also brought us the moronic “free one” gag. Our verdict? Another under-performance from the “I’m lovin it” camp.