Promotion Sickness 2012

Every now and then, I suffer from an immensely irritating condition called promotion sickness. It interferes with my daily life, interrupting an otherwise standard journey from one place to another with intense feelings of nausea, confusion and despair. It is usually caused by seeing an advertisement which has crossed the line which divides promoting a product, to creating a situation that doesn’t exist, and that product being the ideal choice for someone in that non-existent situation. This cracks my perception of reality (but… why WOULD a man be naked, smiling, wearing expensive designer glasses? Specialist nudist eye test? Superglue accident that he sees the funny side of?) and I feel violent convulsions.

Much has been written already about the mind-numbing corporate domination of the London 2012 Olympic Games, and even today Dave Bailey of Hardknott has written about how small business have been affected. I’m going to hone in on a specific example, in fact, a particular advertisement. In London Liverpool Street rail station, there’s a large video screen of rolling adverts, news and so on, which periodically displays information about events taking place that day, sponsored by Heineken. As we all know, Heineken is the official alcohol provider for an international festival where people, who as part of their training are forced to avoid drinking alcohol, perform physical feats for the entertainment of people who do drink alcohol. It instructs viewers to… oh no here it comes… to go and watch the coverage… oh this is going be a bad one… to watch the coverage in… mmhbbbhmmm…. ‘Your Local Heineken Pub’.
Not the first time Heineken has made me sick.
Sorry, I think that’s most of it gone now. The advert (I couldn’t take picture of it – promotion sickness ruins my hand-eye co-ordination and gets vomit on my phone) is sponsored by Heineken in the same way that the sky is sponsored by the colour blue. I mean, it couldn’t be more green, or have more red stars on it, or more uses of the word ‘Heineken’. Clearly all efforts have already been made to make sure that we associate ‘watching the Olympic Games’ and ‘having a beer’ with Heineken. Mission accomplished.
First, I would like to congratulate Heineken on behalf of every person who has ever used the phrase ‘local pub’. We’ve just been milling around, using the phrase for years, without ever once thinking that it could be improved just by subtly crowbarring the word Heineken into it. Well, thanks guys, we are sure to use the new and improved version immediately, and we certainly don’t feel offended by a corporation trying to change an existing phrase for their own ends for a few weeks. It isn’t weird or sickening at all. I was just vomiting about how amazing it is. 
Anyway, this advert raises a few questions, mainly: what was wrong with just saying ‘your local pub’, given that the advert is basically a collage of Heineken logos with tiny glimpses of athletes, grass, sky and things that aren’t Heineken? What is a local… H-word pub? What have you done with the others?
Well, as I am sure any Heineken marketeer would tell you, any pub in London that doesn’t sell Heineken during the Games obviously doesn’t have a very big interest in sports coverage. I mean, these supposed intelligent human beings, have got themselves into a situation where they own or pay rent on a large building that regularly has lots of people it, they have an extortionately expensive Sky Sports package because they are a pub, expensive televisions to show it, and a whole range of drinks to meet the expectations of their customer base, and THEY DON’T HAVE HEINEKEN. Pity should be reserved for those who deserve it, not these knuckle-dragging, slow-witted sub-humans, who probably struggle to use rudimentary tools.
Sports bar owner Dean Smith, whose locals allegedly ‘prefer Staropramen’, if such a thing can be believed.
These people CERTAINLY won’t have received the full corporate pub-vajazzaling (you can correct me on the spelling but I understand it means something to do with interior decoration) from the Heineken salesforce, who have basically rebranded 150 London pubs earlier this month. Perhaps this is what a Local H******** Pub is. Perhaps we are all supposed to flock to these places, and quaff Heineken by the keg-load as physically superior people jump and run and so on in the way that they do.
*opens his cynicism valve*
Aaaaaaah….
Look, I understand why they chose Heineken. From a completely practical point of view, to be the omni-brewer for an event like the Olympics, you need to have enormous brewing capacity and a solid, reliable supply chain to ensure that loads and loads of beer can be in all kinds of places at any moment. You need a competent sales force and account team who know the stadia market inside out, and can accommodate their requirements. You also need to be provide a beer that is acceptable, NOT special or remarkable, but just about acceptable to most people. These are the established rules.
But you know what, it would have been really, really amazing if LOCOG had thought to do things a little bit differently. Here we have a city with not just brewing tradition or history, but a city that actually defined beer styles that travelled the world and influenced brewers everywhere, and were high valued commodities that defined what beer actually is. Here we have a city that is undergoing a beer renaissance, with dozens of microbreweries starting up on a monthly basis. Here we have a city that is producing some of the best beer in the world, and the best cuisine, and maybe, just maybe there was something that could have been done to truly elevate beer’s standing.
Beer could have been parachuted in, or a brewery in the Industrial revolution section…
Wait, what the hell has beer got to do with the Olympics anyway Chris, didn’t you already have a pop at the connection in your second paragraph? Well spotted, and I stand by the point that beer has absolutely nothing to do with participating in sport (after participating is another matter entirely). However, sport is one of everybody’s ‘beer moments’, and this is a cultural Olympiad as well as a sporting one. Perhaps if LOCOG had approached, I don’t know, the London Brewers Alliance, and maybe they could have contacted the Society of Independent Brewers, and brewers based near where other events are taking place in the UK, and discussed and planned out a way of supplying dozens of different beers, from conventional to exceptional, for an event that is intended to highlight the very best of the country it takes place in. I seem to recall Great Britain being rather better at beer that it is at a lot of other things. Well, except rowing and sailing, but then how else would we have got IPA?
Ah well, at least we have a reassuringly passionless, common-denominator corporate brand to enjoy. Isn’t that what the Olympics is all about?

Author: Chris Hall

London-based freelance beer writer and blogger. Member of the British Guild of Beer Writers. Co-author of 'Craft Beer: 100 Best Breweries in The World' On Twitter @ChrisHallBeer.

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