"Probably the best beer in the world," is how Carlsberg memorably described itself in an ad campaign originally created by Saatchi & Saatchi in 1973, when Carlsberg Group first began brewing its eponymous lager in the UK. However, life for Carlsberg has become much more competitive in Britain in recent years. For years, the UK was the parent group's single biggest market volumes for many years, but the local business now ranks 4th in a brutally competitive market. Performance plunged during 2015 following a decision by retailer Tesco to delist almost all versions of the main Carlsberg brand as a response to deep discounting in other sellers. As a result, Carlsberg has attempted - with some success - to reposition itself as a semi-premium brand, loosening various sponsorship ties to more mass-market sports. For more than 20 years, for example, the beer was the official sponsor of the England football team, but declined to renew that arrangement in 2018, ironically just before the side's unexpectedly strong showing in that year's FIFA World Cup. In the UK lager market, the Carlsberg brand now sits in 5th place behind Stella Artois, Budweiser and others while its Tetley's Bitter has trailed John Smith's (now owned by Heineken) in the ale sector since 1995. In the off-trade (take-home) sector, Carlsberg sales were £189m in the year to Apr 2019 (Nielsen quoted in The Grocer). The company took steps to reposition Carlsberg even more explicitly that year by completely overhauling the brewing process to improve the beer's taste. It promoted the relaunch with a bold marketing campaign that publicised negative consumer comments about the old beer. The group also handles local distribution of San Miguel, which contributed retail sales of almost £141m. Holsten Pils has a long heritage in the UK, but sales (£27m take-home in ye 2019) are far below their 1980s highs. A new cider brand, Somersby, was first launched in the UK and other European markets in 2009, and had rolled out in more than 40 countries by 2014. Although Carlsberg owns Kronenbourg in most other global markets, UK rights remain with Heineken UK not Carlsberg UK. The group also distributes its own Tuborg, Poretti and Grimbergen brands in the UK, as well as Brooklyn Brewery craft beers; and has a sizeable wholesale division that includes specialist wine merchant Crown Cellars. In its boldest move for years, Carlsberg acquired a controlling stake in 2020 in the brewing operations of rival Marston's. The merged business will assume the name Carlsberg Marston's Brewing Company. Carlsberg managing director Tomasz Blawat will lead the resulting business with Marston's Ralph Findlay as chairman. Marston's is best-known for its ale brands, including Marston's Pedigree, McEwan's, Bombardier, Hobgoblin and Wainwright. It also holds the UK license for lager brands including Estrella Damm, Erdinger, Warsteiner and Kirin. The majority of sales are in the on-trade sector rather than take-home. Estrella Damm is its top-seller in take-hone with sales of £59m in 2019, followed by Hobgoblin at £34m.
Capsule checked 25th May 2020
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Recent stories from Adbrands Update:
Adbrands Daily Updsate 25th May 2020: UK independent brewer Marston's is to inject its beer-making operations into a new joint venture controlled by global giant Carlberg. The latter will assume a 60% stake in Marston's beer business and will combine both company's assets into newly created Carlsberg Marston's Brewery Company. Marston's will retain a 40% stake in the business and receive a cash payment of £273m, but will now focus its main attention on its estate of 1,400 UK pubs. The deal values Marston's brewery business at £580m and Carlberg UK at £200m.
Adbrands Social Media 22nd May 2019: "The Lake". Carlsberg's bold attempt to reboot consumer feelings about its flagship lager gets another push in Fold7's darkly humorous new ad, again featuring Mads Mikkelsen. This follows a brave 'Mean Tweets' campaign in which the brand reposted negative past comments from drinkers who likened the beer to "the rancid piss of Satan" or "stale breadsticks". The UK brewing process has undergone a complete overhaul since then to improve taste and consistency. Will it work? Only time will tell, but strong ads like this should certainly help.
Adbrands Weekly Update 11th Oct 2018: Ads Of The Week: "Unfiltered". Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen returns for another Carlsberg spot from UK indie Fold7, part of the brewer's continuing attempt to reposition itself as a premium brew rather than a beer for the masses. This time Mads kicks back for a bit of hygge - or whatever is the Danish equivalent of it - with new premium variant Carlsberg Unfiltered. There's a very gentle hint of Old Spice about the ad's visual trickery, but the overall effect is really rather laidback and chilled. Nicely done.
Adbrands Social Media 14th May 2018: That's right: "Rich" not "Beach"... The new spot for Spanish beer San Miguel - now managed in the UK by Carlsberg - is very cute. Indie agency Pablo have built up a strong position across the whole Carlsberg portfolio in the UK, and their creative output has grown increasingly confident. This new campaign ties in to San Miguel's sponsorship of the alternative UK Rich List ranking, the flipside to the Sunday Times's version. Different people define rich in different ways, and this ad - loosely conceived in the intro as some kind of social experiment - asks which of these two versions you'd prefer. Hmmmm. I know which one we're *meant* to choose... but that first version is rather tempting too...
Adbrands Weekly Update 1st Mar 2018: Carlsberg declined to renew its sponsorship of the England national football team after this year's World Cup. That puts an end to 22 underwhelming years in which the side rarely got beyond the quarter-finals stage at any international tournament. The brewer will continue its sponsorship of eight Premier League sides including Liverpool and Tottenham. It also sponsors Live Nation's various UK music festivals as well as Glastonbury, where it will be the official beer for the 11th year this year. However, other brewers still have faith in the beleaguered England side. Budweiser was quick to step into the breach, with what is reported to be a significantly better offer, expanding an existing relationship with the Football Association that already includes sponsorship of the FA Cup. As part of the deal, AB InBev will also become the exclusive beer provider for Wembley Stadium. Budweiser has enjoyed a dramatic surge in popularity in the UK over the past year, overtaking Foster's to become the #2 take-home lager behind Stella Artois.
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