Sixteen of Europe’s finest will battle it out this month with a winner emerging on July 1. If you’re not in Poland or Ukraine, watch the matches in the pub, suggests Alastair Gilmour
Here it comes, the biggest sporting show since the last one – and just weeks before the next. It’s the European Championships with 16 international sides playing football in front of a global television audience of 200 million.
Poland and Ukraine are joint hosts for the month-long tournament and not long after the stadiums are swept clean of streamers and ring-pulls, the bonanza of world sport and its sponsorship entourage will descend on London for the Olympic Games.
They’re both huge opportunities, not only for mega-brands McDonald’s, Castrol and Coca-Cola to show us their logos, but a chance for our pubs to offer sports-related hospitality over a summer that could spell disaster for many of them if the sun doesn’t shine.
This month there’s the football – 31 matches to go and some of us will be following every one – with plenty of “needle” around to guarantee several frisky encounters. Germany v Holland is always a lively fixture and there’s no love lost between England and France, either. Russia and the Czech Republic? They’ll be dancing in the streets of Velke Popovice if the Czechs conquer their old masters.
Beer and football; they go together like… football and beer. A pint or two before the match is almost mandatory, as is a swifty at half-time and a few sorrow-drowners/celebratory jars after the final whistle. If you’re there in the flesh, though, it’s going to be one brand only. Carlsberg is once more in the beer supply driving seat in Polish and Ukrainian stadiums as the event’s major beer backer. As part of the European Championships sponsorship deal, Carlsberg will benefit from exclusive marketing rights for alcoholic beverages within the competition’s official premises. This all means that no other beer will be allowed within spilling distance of the eight stadiums being used. Football fans will not be allowed to sip a Brok in Warsaw or an Etalon Weissbier in Kiev. And, if the 2010 World Cup in South Africa is anything to go by, offenders will be strictly dealt with and their beer thrown down the nearest drain hole in uncompromising fashion.
As for the European Championships, we don’t look forward to watching images of Ukraine’s secret police battering young football fans around the legs with batons just because they’ve taken a fancy to some locally-brewed ale.
“Germany v Holland is always a lively fixture and there’s no love lost between England and France. Russia and the Czech Republic?”
But there’s an answer to global force-feeding and it’s called “ambush marketing”. You may recall during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa – during a Holland versus Denmark game to be precise – Dutch brewing company Bavaria signed up 36 blonde women, shoehorned them into orange dresses and asked them to jiggle up and down until an ITV cameraman – and every press photographer in the stadium – homed in on them during a lull in the action. This was ambush marketing in action. Sponsor Budweiser was paying hundreds of thousands to have its name displayed on hoardings with exclusive rights to sell beer and the world gets live – and decidedly more attractive – advertising for free.
The ploy certainly worked as Bavaria’s website ended the World Cup as the fifth-most visited by UK browsers and many of us went straight out to find Bavaria Pils to accompany Holland’s next match.
Bavaria had “previous” – at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, a crowd of Dutch fans was forced to watch their match against the Ivory Coast wearing only their underpants after their orange lederhosen was confiscated at the turnstiles. The thought of what Bavaria will do in Poland and Ukraine is already making Euro 2012 enticing.