‘This is a collective decision, taken by me along with all our major partners. The beer category is more vibrant and in better health; now we will turn our attention to addressing new threats.’
It’s not yet clear if this initiative will have the same funding level as TABFT, which had an annual £5m budget; full details are expected by April this year. The campaign will be working closely with the British Beer and Pub Association, which represents the UK’s biggest breweries and pub companies, alongside a host of other organisations.
Launched in October 2014 as a customer- and trade-focused campaign, TABFT preached the virtues of pairing beer with food. The new campaign will have a far greater emphasis on political lobbying – although much is still to be decided, and there will still be a public-facing aspect. ‘We want customers to understand what’s happening and to put pressure on politicians,’ says Cunningham.
TABFT in its current form will continue to exist online until at least April, although it will not enter into any new partnerships. The new campaign does not yet have a name nor is it clear if it will be run under the aegis of Britain’s Beer Alliance, but Cunningham hopes it will draw on the collaborative aspect that was key to TABFT.
Cunningham says the decision to change focus has been spurred by the government’s decision to raise alcohol duty rates in line with Retail Price Index inflation, announced in last spring’s budget. The new campaign will focus on two key messages: ‘the positive story of beer and pubs’ and ‘to raise awareness of the threat facing the great British tradition of having a beer with family and friends in the local pub, and the negative impact this could have in a post-Brexit Britain on pubs, jobs, the economy, society and community.’
Off-trade beer sales overtook on-trade sales for the first time ever, in 2016. On-trade beer sales have fallen by almost 50% since 1980, according to figures from the BBPA.
TABFT has divided opinion; it has faced criticism based on the fact that its funding largely comes from multinational brewing companies. This criticism was fuelled by the failure of a previous campaign, Let There Be Beer, which drew scorn for beer-and-food-matching videos hosted by TV presenter Tim Lovejoy that showcased unadventurous choices, including big-brand lagers such as Cobra and Heineken.
Nonetheless, TABFT has won praise too. ‘It was excellent to have a campaign to celebrate beer [that]reached out beyond the usual crew of beer-lovers,’ said Adrian Tierney-Jones, the current British Guild of Beer Writers’ Beer Writer of The Year. ‘It’ll be very interesting to see how the new campaign works.
‘I like that TABFT covered beer-and-food matching, publicised beer styles, shone a spotlight on women in beer and just generally focused on the sybaritic pleasures of beer, which is something we can all relate to.’
TABFT’s stated focus was on the ‘quality, diversity and versatility’ of Britain’s national drink. There were media partnerships with the Daily Telegraph in 2016 and The Guardian in 2017, frequent food-and-drink events, and a host of printed material that went out to pubs, bars and bottle shops around the UK.
Social media was crucial to the campaign. TABFT amassed a Twitter following of over 33,000 thanks partly to its #beermatch tool, which allowed users to tweet a food type/recipe and get a recommended beer in response.
Pic credits: There’s a Beer For That ad campaign