Introduced in 2014, the ‘There’s a beer for that’ initiative was launched by Britain’s Beer Alliance, an industry wide collaboration of breweries, pub companies and trade associations. The big five brewers, including Heineken, Molson Coors, AB InBev, SABMiller and Carlsberg, also contributed £10m in initial funding.
The campaign, created by SapientNitro, aims to drive sustainable category growth and seeks to make consumers more aware of the different types of beer, as well as introducing more occasions on which the beverage can be drunk.
This week, the initiative was promised a further £5m investment for 2016 from Britain’s Beer Alliance, while the British Beer and Pub Association will also contribute to funding.
According to David Cunningham, programme director for the initiative, the fact that more brewers are backing the campaign is the “most tangible evidence of [the campaign’s] success and the desire to continue”.
He told Marketing Week: “Depending on our performance against 30 set KPIs, a decision would be made whether or not to continue campaign and investment. We could tangibly prove against those targets that we achieved 26 of our 30 KPIs. That’s not bad after a relatively short period of time.”
Shifting attitudes to beer
The campaign has had a particular impact on consumer attitudes towards beer, said Cunningham.
“We have tracking data that all our advertising has exceeded or performed better than industry norms.
“There have been significant increases in that beer is seen as a drink for men and women which can be had with food for a wide range of occasions and its quality perception among the British public has also gone up. We’re heading in the right direction.”
David Cunningham, programme director, The Beer Alliance
The campaign has also received positive on-trade and off-trade support – something that Cunningham hopes to capitalise on this year.
“We had 97% positive sentiment in the trade and retail press, which we consider one of our big successes. It’s important to have industry support as well as consumer support,” he added.
“We’ll see a greater focus and drive more activation in the on-trade and the off-trade in 2016, building on what we’ve already done. We will work with more partners and adapt accordingly. There’s a lot more collaboration to be done – it has been quite a fragmented industry.”
Awareness marketing versus creating buzz
According to research released last year by The Drinking Code, consumers like staying with their favourite beers, which means awareness marketing is no longer the key driver to adoption. Instead, beer brands should focus on igniting consumers’ passions and generating word of mouth.
But Cunningham thinks the campaign has to do both. He explained: “I think beer at a category level still has a job to do to get consumers people to think differently and reappraise beer. However, we can then use word of mouth, social, experiential and digital to engage consumers and give them more information. A combination of the two will deliver success.”
While a shift in consumer attitudes has been linked to the campaign, Cunningham recognises it is more difficult to measure growth in the overall category. However, he is confident the campaign can add momentum to the current stagnant beer market.
“In 2015, the beer market was more static. But if you looked at the trend before – the whole market was in decline. Now that it’s flattened out, we can drive sustainable growth.”
To achieve this, the ‘There’s a beer for that’ campaign is seeking to convert attitude changes into sustained behavioural changes through an increased number of events, digital activity and media partnerships.
“While we’ve seen early signs of campaign success, we wanted attitudes to change first as then the behaviour will follow. This year, our focus will be much more on behavioural change.”
Playing the long game
Mintel figures back up Cunningham’s claims. Overall beer volumes in the UK have been broadly flat since 2012 around the 4.2 billion litres mark.
Heavy promotions around the 2015 Rugby World Cup also contributed to category growth, volumes are expected to be slightly down by the end of 2015. Yet modest growth is in sight – Mintel expects volumes to increase in the coming years, reaching 4.32 billion litres by 2020.
Lager in particular seems to be struggling, with volume sales falling from 3.18 billion litres in 2014 to an estimated 3.15 billion litres in 2015. Overall, sales of lager have dropped by 8% over the past five years.
Meanwhile, Brits are expected to have drunk 913m litres of ale and bitter in 2015, up from 895m litres in 2014. Mintel’s global drinks analyst Jonny Forsyth says this shift by the British public towards drinking a larger variety of beers is helping the overall market.
“It’s a difficult time, but a lot of that’s down to the macro environment being challenging,” says Forsyth.
“It’s not a disaster that the market is flat. It was looking that it was going to decline quite heavily, but in many ways that has been corrected.”
Jonny Forsyth, Mintel, global drinks analyst
“A lot of that has been down to the increasing popularity of craft beer, which has reignited a national interest in beer. People want premium experiences too. Lager was not a premium experience at all five years ago, but suddenly you’ve got all this innovation in craft beer, which has completely led the revival of beer,” he says.
While Forsyth is a fan of the ‘There’s a beer for that’ initiative and says the renewed drive is “absolutely” a good thing, he is cynical about whether it can help drive sales on a short-term basis.
He concludes: “A campaign like this is a drop in the ocean in terms of awareness – it’s not going to have dramatic short-term effects on beer attitudes and sales. The idea that they are pulling those levers of change themselves is simply not true. Attitudes are changing due to innovation and craft beer becoming increasingly popular.
“However, it is still a worthwhile campaign as it joins up new trends and might amplify those messages. But it will be down to long term changes on a macro level to make a real impact.”