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Drinks firms fear Olympic restrictions will limit sales boost

Published:  20 April, 2012

Drinks retailers' hopes for an Olympics sales boost could be dashed as "draconian" restrictions limit the opportunity.

Shops and bars that considered offering promotions or linking their marketing to the event are finding it hard to come up with anything that falls on the right side of the rules.

Jo Davy, marketing manager at the 25-strong London chain Davy's Wine Bars, said it was a "shame" that "there's not really much you can do".

"The guidance document restricts anything that is connected - obviously to safeguard the official sponsors. Your hands are tied - you can't have an 'Olympic menu', but have to go along the lines of 'summer' or 'sporting'. It sounds like they could potentially come down on you quite heavily."

Bars can show the Games on TV, but are not allowed to promote this except via official literature and posters. Davy has already requested the material, but was told it would not be ready for some time.

"We just want to let people know so we can make the most of it. We're going to push ahead with 'sporting packages' - that will touch on Euro 2012, too - and avoid conflicting with anything as much as possible."

A spokeswoman for Mitchells & Butlers said: "We believe it is possible to link ourselves to the Olympics despite the advertising restrictions; we will have to be creative, showing that we are supporting the games without directly referring to them."

It has launched a dedicated Get Ahead of the Games website, showcasing its 70 London venues and offering hospitality bookings, and is encouraging all its sites to "support, celebrate and participate in the event".

Jo Ahearne MW, wine and spirits buying manager for Harrods, said the Olympics was a big thing for the retailer as it is an "iconic British institution". It's taking a more general summer-long approach, which kicks off with a focus on "quintessentially English" gin. Ahearne said the less-specific push was as a result of "draconian" restrictions about any association with the Olympics, coupled with the "not very suitable" link between alcohol and sport.

Corney & Barrow admitted from an on-trade supplier perspective it wasn't "really sure" what the impact will be. A spokeswoman said:"The scale of the Olympics and Paralympics hitting London is unprecedented and consequently the knock on effect for our business and our customers' businesses is a big unknown.

"However, we are prepared: For months we have been planning a logistic strategy." It will be delivering most orders overnight, encouraging customers to hold more stock and order larger volumes less frequently.

She added that many on-trade operators had not got firm plans at this stage. "Feedback we've had so far is that many customers haven't yet decided on a strategy, we are encouraging them to give it some close attention as soon as possible."

At the time of going to press the London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG) offered no comment.