The Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, December 18, 2015

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It’s official! Shop at Lidl and you will become the next Wayne Rooney. At least that’s what I thought when I heard the news that Lidl had signed up to become the ‘official supermarket of the England football team’. Perhaps I misunderstood it, and the truth is that next time I go to Lidl, I won’t be able to get down the aisle to buy my bread rolls as the place will be clogged up with fans taking selfies of themselves with Harry Kane. So excited was I by the news that I checked out the FA site to see who the other partners were, hoping to find out what kind of real ale the lads drink. I soon found the headline about Miller scoring a hat trick for Bury in an FA youth cup second round game at Scunthorpe, but there was no list of other ‘official FA commercial partners’, and my efforts at further research lead me into a nightmare loop of websites, eventually bringing me back to the same place, so if England are partnered by Fox brewery up in Heacham, alas we shall never know.

It did lead me to wonder how effective these commercial ‘partnerships’ (when did the word sponsorship become obsolete?) actually are. How many people will remember the Lidl link a week after the headlines fade away? Even if you pay a shed load of money and have shirt sponsorship, or even name the competition or stadium does it stick in peoples mind? Where is the John Smiths stadium? I had to look it up, even though I have been there several times, except that when I went it was called the McAlpine, then the Galpharm. I used to go to the Reebok, to watch our arch rivals, Bolton Wanderers play, but it is now the Macron, no longer home of the air soles.

Let’s face it, consumers aren’t daft. When we watch Spectre, we know deep down inside, that drinking a bottle of Heineken is not going to make us James Bond and the truth is that the company have paid a lot of money to be featured in the film.

However, when a celebrity drinks a beer seemingly by choice, the result can be dramatic. Recently, David Cameron entertained his opposite number from China and took him down the pub for a quick pint at the Plough in Cadsden, Bucks. Here, Xi Jinping was pictured supping a pint of IPA, and demand back home in China has gone through the roof. Importers in China have been cleaned out, as bars throughout the country want to stock Xi’s favourite tipple. British businessman, Peter Bloxham lives in Beijing has reportedly upped his normal 6,000 bottles per month order to 80,000, whilst the brewery in Bury St Edmunds are hoping for a surge in the number of Chinese tourist at their visitor centre.

Given this success, perhaps the visit down the pub will become as de rigeur as inspecting the troops on an official visit, although it might be as well to get the important agreements signed before going off for a night on the Tsingtao. As always, the Americans are ahead of the game. Barack Obama doesn’t just drink beer, he brews it. At least he bought a home brew kit and asked his staff to do the hard work. The result was White House Honey Brown Ale, which has since been joined by a porter. Check out the recipes on the ‘Ale to the Chief’ website. Now, if David Cameron brewed a beer for the England team and Angela Merkel tried it, that might sell.