About 28 billion people in 213 countries saw at least one match of the last World Cup in Japan and Korea, even though that tournament was hampered by inconvenient game times for UK TV. This year's games will be shown here at 2pm, 5pm and 8pm, making the tournament more retailer-friendly. Manufacturers say that for a glimpse of what this year could be like in terms of sales it is best to look at Euro 2004 when, according to Carling customer marketing director Tom Feinson, the volume of beer sold was equivalent to Christmas 2001 and 2002. "It was a bit like two Christmases in one year," he says. "Average weekly retail sales of beer reached £39m."
S&N trading director convenience and specialist Ian Norman is excited about the potential: "Summer is bigger than Christmas for independents in beer and you've got the exceptional circumstances of having the games on at a convenient time. It's got to be a huge opportunity."
For retailers in England, the key dates to look out for are the three matches England are to play on June 10, June 15 and June 20, which will mean that the team is guaranteed to stay in the tournament for at least two weeks. Coors Brewers sales director Kevin Brownsey says that these and subsequent games could see a significant rise in beer sales. "Judging by previous tournaments, if England make the quarter-finals or further, there will be a 15-20% rise in beer consumption during June compared with a 'normal' year. Main growth tends to occur during the 10-day period when England play their group matches and matches after that, if they progress."
The key to what will make this tournament a success - apart from the weather and how well England play, which are out of your hands - is forward planning and stocking up ready for the kick-off on June 9.
As S&N head of marketing Craig Clarkson says, retailers can't afford to miss this opportunity: "You've got a really tiny window to make sure that you're getting the offer right. If you haven't got chilled beer, you're losing out."
Norman agrees: "The message to the sector is that they must get ready for it, prepare and get rid of slow-moving lines. By mid-May they really need to have put up displays of pos, footballs and flags - the whole football fever bit. If you haven't got the availability right early on you could lose this for six weeks."
And when it comes to storage, the message is the colder the better, according to Stuart McFarlane, managing director of take home sales at Inbev. "When the World Cup comes the big multiples will lead on price with big pack deals - that's a reality that c-store owners need to face up to. So they need to focus on three things: chilling, multipacks and key brands."
Norman agrees: "Timing is a factor and so is chilled. There will be a lot of last-minute purchases before and during the game. When it gets to half-time and somebody legs it down the shop to stock up, they'll want it chilled."
Most manufacturers agree that when it comes to pack sizes there is no point in c-stores trying to compete with the multiples by offering huge cases. By keeping things smaller -four- to 12-packs (and chilled) with a few special offers, small retailers can compete on their own terms. Says Clarkson: "Our director always says that you don't want to take a 24-pack to your mate's for the footie because you don't want to leave any there! We're talking about chilled smaller packs for independents."
But small doesn't mean that retailers should avoid multipacks, says acting MBL marketing manager Ross Halliday. "Retailers shouldn't undersell themselves," he says. "What's the point in selling a four-pack if you can sell an eight-pack instead?"
McFarlane agrees. "If c-stores are going to get a top-up shop from customers driving home for a game, they need sell as much as possible in that one sale. They should focus on multipacks more than they have in the past," he points out.
When it comes to stocking brands, says Norman, retailers need to be tough about what they do and don't stock: "There are 11 key brands to look at and you've got to get the top 10 right. You've got to look at what is in the chiller and get rid of slow-moving lines. In the run up to the games you've got to ask yourself what people will want, as shelf space will be at an absolute premium."
Feinson adds that as well as getting the temperature and price right, a little thought about presentation can also help. "If you're advertising cold beer, make a connection with the occasion. If you say 'Buy Carling at this price' it does okay, but if you say 'Get ice cold Carling in for the game tonight' it seems to have a lot more impact."
Someone else who is a fan of in-store theatre is Budvar director of sales off trade, John Whittle. But he thinks there is a danger with building too much of your display around England's hopes. He believes there is an opportunity in looking at the tournament as a whole. He suggests, for example, making a feature out of selling lagers from the countries that are playing on any given day. "Put it on a multibuy to drive weight of sale then, say, on a night when Germany play the Czech Republic, you could have a special offer on Becks and Budvar."
Whittle is also sceptical of the way the tournament is being hyped to c-stores: "People say that this is going to be the biggest event ever, but it won't be." He says retailers should look to the first three England games as the biggest opportunity, but after that not to bank on a huge hike in sales. "The reality is that sales will go up when England play; the rest is hype."
McFarlane adds: "Looking at the figures from World Cup 2002, there is a drop-off in consumption when England get knocked out, so if everyone focuses only on the World Cup, they're going to miss out on the barbecue and party-at-home occasions driven by good weather."
However, most of the manufacturers believe that all is not lost if the worst happens and 'our boys' do go home early, as it seems that during the World Cup everyone will carry on to the bitter end, with or without England. Says McFarlane: "The World Cup is unique in that it's the only time people will sit and watch teams like the Ivory Coast and Trinidad and Tobago, so it still drives consumption even when England get knocked out. Let's hope they win it."
And even if the public do throw their TVs out of the window in disgust at England's display, they will still carry on drinking, says Norman. "In the awful event of that happening, I think there would be a short period of sorrow and then people would get on with barbecuing."
Budweiser, one of the World Cup official sponsors, kicked off its celebrations early with a promotion on 100 million bottles and cans of Budweiser, giving away a pair of World Cup tickets every 48 hours. The Passport to Germany promotion is the biggest ever by Budweiser in the UK and spans on and off trade. The promotion also includes the Bud Beerleaders, who will be in the UK in June visiting major cities to give fans the chance to win last-minute tickets to the tournament. The beer has joint sponsorship of all ITV's coverage of the World Cup with EDF Energy, plus sponsorship of ITV's World Cup website. The company has also announced that it will continue its sponsorship into the next two World Cups in 2010 and 2014. The 2014 tournament will be the eighth consecutive time that Anheuser-Busch has been a major event sponsor.
Carling is aiming to keep up interest throughout the tournament with an on-pack promotion. Special ring pulls on 150 million cans of Carling will feature a code that can be exchanged for a match forecast of one of the 64 matches in the tournament. If the forecast matches the actual score the consumer wins up to £50. The promotion will also feature on one in every four Carling bottle crowns.
According to Carlsberg, the weekly average spend on beer during Euro 2004 rose to £19.70 and 63% of people prefer to watch England games in their own homes. The company is backing the tournament with an extension of its 'Probably the best lager in the world' strapline, which has been adapted to question whether this could really be the year that England win the World Cup...'Probably'. The on-pack promotion (in England only) gives the consumer a chance to win one of a million Carlsberg- branded glasses, embossed with the Three Lions logo. The company is offering special deals including pricemarked packs on its 'Probably' promotion, with eight 500ml cans for £5.85 and eight 400ml cans for £5.
S&N is launching its biggest ever promotion to capitalise on the tournament. The company has teamed up with Ladbrokes to offer consumers free football bets. The promotion runs across Foster's, Kronenbourg 1664, John Smith's Extra Smooth and Strongbow plus Strongbow Sirrus.