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Aintree gets the ale in again

But Barry Turnbull doesn't think Crabbies’ sponsorship of the Grand National is the best bet

Written by . Published on August 30th 2013.

Aintree gets the ale in again

THE Grand National, one of the world’s leading sporting brands, has been associated with drinking since 1984.

At least back then with Seagram and its subsidiary, Martell Cognac, there was a touch of the upmarket.

Crabbie’s alcoholic ginger beer, on the other hand, is a stablemate of Lambrini, famous for its association with, in their words, lower income women who like getting a bit "pissed”.

Can you imagine any other
top global sporting event
taking on board a sponsor
with a name like Crabbie’s?

Mind you, at least Huyton-based owners Halewood International are trying to position Crabbie’s a bit higher up the social scale with its toffy TV characters George and Camilla.

John Halewood And Ginger MccainLong association: The
National's first Ginger (McCain)
with John Halewood
Nevertheless, I’m not sure whether this constant association with drinks firms is healthy. Can you imagine any other top global sporting event taking on board a sponsor with a name like Crabbie’s?

For many visitors to the Aintree festival, the sights in the city centre later at night are sometimes more memorable than the racing itself (just try to recall this year’s winner).

It’s not just a festival of racing, it’s a carnival of boozing too. Young men, ties half skew, shirts out, stumbling and shouting on the streets while gaggles of women tottering in high heels displaying acres of flesh look like the result of some bizarre social experiment.

Of course I am not saying all this is bad, people are allowed to enjoy themselves and I’ve rarely seen any trouble over the years, but having a drinks firm on board in a high profile way just reinforces this sort of image.

Halewood International will receive massive coverage with 600m TV viewers worldwide tuning into the Grand National itself. And although it is a successful local company its track record on promoting alcohol to young people is pretty grim - or a triumph - depending on how you look at it.

In 2003, a marketing executive told me his mission was to appeal to people with "promiscuous drinking habits" and that he was disappointed that planned drinks called Sorted and Loaded didn’t get the nod.

I had met him at company headquarters in Huyton because in those days, the late company founder John Halewood did not give press interviews.

Crabbies Grand NationalCrabbie's - more
upmarket than Lambrini
However, as I was leaving he arrived trim and tanned, fresh from a Caribbean holiday. He ushered me into his office to catch a horse of his running in the 1.30 at Lingfield. It actually won.

It turned out he was a very affable chap, presiding over a business full of bright, young things. I asked him about Lambrini but he remained coy, trotting out some marketing type speak.

Mr Halewood famously won the Grand National with his horse Amberleigh House, trained by Red Rum legend Ginger McCain,  in 2004.

A  House of Commons select committee has investigated drinks’ firms’ use of advertising material in terms of attracting young people and associating with sporting events. Halewood International came under the spotlight.

In material obtained from the firm and its advertising agencies, the committee discovered that in 2006, as part of market research for Lambrini, young women were asked to create mood boards for the drink and were helpfully handed the written expressions “getting pissed”, “pole dancing” and “drinking games”.

I would have thought a sporting brand leader would have had higher aspirations than this tie-up. It was not so long ago someone declared Aintree Racecourse aspired to be the "Ascot of the North’".

Jaguar Land Rover, there’s a local brand you would be proud to hook up with.

I first covered Aintree as a reporter back in the dark days just after property developer Bill Davies almost killed it off. Its resurgence to national and international prominence since then has been thrilling to see and it remains a glorious spectacle.

Huge attempts have been made to make the race safer in recent years. I would have thought the ending of brewer John Smith’s sponsorship of the race this year could have heralded in a new era of support, rather than resorting to the easy option of yet another swig of booze. Do needs really equal must?

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17 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

HenryAugust 30th 2013.

The Grand National meeting is nothing but an excuse for people to get togged up and go on the ale. I'm not surprised the sponsor is a drinks outfit that targets the younger crowd - its a perfect fit! Also when there is another hue and cry about horse deaths it wont effect this target market so brand won't be diluted. All very calculated.

SaladDazeAugust 30th 2013.

Is that bus from Green Lane depot? There's a big queue outside the Eagle and Child waiting for it. Get a move on. PS It all seems a long time ago since we were capital of culture. Now it's firmly back to Vomitorium and Shite Architecture City.

1 Response: Reply To This...
John BradleyAugust 30th 2013.

What have the exits to amphitheatres got to do with it?

AnonymousAugust 30th 2013.

Can't help thinking there were not that many interested parties. Maybe we should just be happy it has a sponsor at all?

Fay SontoiletseatAugust 30th 2013.

Is it such a bad thing? Chester seems to make a reasonable living from nothing more than pub crawls, race day vomiting and shopping.

Scot SmacAugust 30th 2013.

Crabbie's is mair famous for their ginger wine - whit's doonmarket aboot that?

UpmarketAugust 30th 2013.

Surely it ought to read (on the side of the bus) "Serve WITH ice and a slice". It's not hovering over the ice bucket. Actually 'a slice' is a bit common.

SnakebiteAugust 30th 2013.

What's so upmarket about Ascot? Wasn't that the course where gangs of moneyed yobs brawled using champagne bottles as weapons last year? As we frequently observe, just because a place is expensive it doesn't keep out the riff-raff, usually the opposite in fact.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Henry MullenAugust 30th 2013.

As long as we have the Grand National in LIVERPOOL i dont care who sponsors the meeting as you always get someone who tries to pull LIVERPOOL down and who is Barry Turnbull anyway

4 Responses: Reply To This...
YawnAugust 30th 2013.

Quit being so paranoid

John BradleyAugust 30th 2013.

It is in Sefton.

Garry SmithAugust 30th 2013.

The default position as ever - its always someone trying to pull Liverpool down. The only people doing that are organisers of an incredible sporting name who can only come up with some cra**ie giinger beer as a sponsor.

NeddieSeptember 3rd 2013.

The racecourse and the sponsors are private businesses. They are accountable to no-one but their shareholders and capitalism is not directed by taste. Only by profit. If you don't like it don't give them your money.

SnakebiteSeptember 2nd 2013.

What so precious? The Grand National is a HORSE RACE for flip's sake! It is called 'the sport of kings' because kings like to gamble and get hammered with what money they have left.

AnonymousSeptember 2nd 2013.

crabbies probably offered to pay more than anyone else and so got chosen simple as that. it was only every likely to be a drinks or a betting firm who got it afterall look at the target market. You cant moan about a horserace having an alcohol related sponsor can you its not like their sponsoring blue peter is it.

1 Response: Reply To This...
L'EscargotSeptember 2nd 2013.

Point being is it's the biggest steeplechase in the world with more money flying about than any other sporting event in the country, it doesn't have to be a downmarket piss-up. www.liverpoolconfidential.co.uk/…/The-Rocking-Horse-Aintree-review…

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