A few weeks ago, one of the top beer writers Roger Protz covered the fact that Heineken have sole beer rights at Olympic venues, however they only went in as a third tier sponsor limiting them to having only one named product,in this case their namesake lager Heineken.  In addition to this they can provide 2 other alcoholic products under generic names, so Strongbow will be supplied as ‘Cider’ and John Smiths Smoothflow will become ‘British Bitter’.  Where an Olympic venue already has a preferred beer supplier such as Lords (hosting the archery) who serve Marston’s beer the pumps will need to be removed for the duration of the event and replaced by temporary Heineken provided equipment.

It is worse if you live in Cardiff where the women’s football is taking place.  An exclusion zone around the stadium over which Heineken has marketing exclusivity takes in most of the city centre, and pubs in the area are not allowed to promote their own beers with banners or pavements signs.  Brain’s, the countries best known brewer, who sponsor the Welsh Football and Rugby team based at the Millenium Stadium have to forfeit their pump positions and I’m sure are not best pleased about the fact.

Discussing the Cardiff issue, having an exclusive zone for a paid sponsor is not wrong as a concept, but there needs to be common sense applied to this rule, if you have a stadium like Wembley where its grounds and car parks take up a big acreage and is in the suburbs then I have no complaints, but where a stadium sits at the heart of the city, as the Millenium Stadium does, then that zone needs to be pulled back to the area of the ground and its immediate area only.

The rule is actually a nonsense and hazard, are they going to cover up hanging pub signs with the tied brewers name on it or scrape off the brewers name etched into the glass in older pubs. The rule limits a pub in going about its day to day business of trying to bring in as many drinkers as possible, whether it be via offering big brand lagers and bitters at £2 per pint during happy hour to get in the 18-25 pre club crowd or advertising the fact that they now have Ilkley Brewery Lotus IPA now on tap to appeal to real ale fans.  I can fully understand controlling promotions which try and associate themselves too closely with the Olympic brand, but an outright ban is just wrong.

It must be remembered that the taxes from the sales of the beer in those pubs paid for a part of the games and are now paying for the officials to go round admonishing premises which flout these unfair rules.  A special law was brought in to give enhanced protection to the Olympic games and the brands which sponsored it in 2006 as part of the criteria for hosting the games.  The pubs aren’t just getting shafted, but officially shafted with their own sticks.  At least they are not being banned from accepting payments from non Visa bank cards, something you can’t do at official Olympic outlets.

Alcohol companies sponsor a lot of sport events and competitions, Budweiser and Carling cover the two English football cups, Heineken themselves support the major European rugby union competition, as do Guiness and Magners regarding the English and Celtic leagues respectively.   However, they only get stadium rights to alcohol sales at very best, sometimes not even that, and at most venues they will share with more local brands.

You sponsor an event to gain goodwill and good publicity from it, not being in the same gang as an over controlling bully, people may fear you, but not like or respect you.  When your big stick is taken off you, people get their revenge.  I wonder how many of the pubs in Cardiff who sell Heineken currently are re-considering their choices when it comes to next reviewing the beer selection.

A lot of companies do respond to pressure and competition, a local pub near me had no luck getting branded glasses from a premium lager brewer until they took on a second similar brand, the glasses arrived 3 days later once the first found out.  Hopefully Heineken will be left with a bad taste after this endorsement of the games, maybe then companies and IOC will learn that protectionism at this level is wrong.


  1. I am at a loss to understand how a pub – having been established for long before the Olympics in Cardiff were even thought of, and having advertised its brands for all that time – can be forced to conceal them.

    Britain is no longer a democracy. It’s a corporate facist state.

    I’m not a pub owner, but if I was and I was affected by this ruling I would refuse to comply and kick up a stink about it. If all the affected pubs in Cardiff did this the negative publicity it generated would probably work.

    As it is, I shall not be drinking Heineken ever again … not that I ever drank it in the first place. Gnats piss.