It is getting to that time of year again. People pile into pubs to celebrate and enjoy themselves, providing a much-needed profit boost to the on-trade during a period that, for many, can make or break their business.
On the face value, it is a jolly affair but there is also a more serious undertone. Safety becomes a bigger focus when it comes to drink driving around Christmas time, with more breath tests carried out at the side of the road during this period than at any other time.
Statistics from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents show that, during 2015, more than 500,000 roadside breath tests were carried out in the UK, with just over 60,000 of those asked (12%) failing or refusing to give a sample.
It is needless to say that Coca-Cola European Partners’ (CCEP) Designated Driver campaign, now celebrating 10 years, still has a relevant role to play in pubs in the lead up to and over Christmas. It is such an important campaign that it is run in conjunction with the Department for Transport’s THINK! drink-driving initiative.
CCEP field sales director Paul Grace is the very man who thought up and championed the Coca-Cola Designated Driver campaign a decade ago, and is still an advocate. “The reason for starting it hasn’t changed,” he explains at the company’s head office. “It’s the one time of year when soft drinks become even more relevant and can play an even more positive role.”
The Designated Driver campaign plays into two types of people, he explains, those who don’t drink alcohol and consumers who are driving that night. “At Christmas, you’ve got more of those people who can’t drink because they are driving – they are the hero among their group of friends and should be treated as such,” adds Grace.
‘Twirling car keys’
“There’s nothing worse than someone with a face on and twirling their car keys because they are bored, so we saw an opportunity to make life more exciting for them, as well as delivering a benefit to the pub.”
The current campaign, which has evolved over the years, sees operators run a buy-one-get-one-free offer on drinks from CCEP’s portfolio. This includes the Schweppes Sparkling Juice Drinks range, Appletiser, Diet Coke, Coca-Cola Classic and Coca-Cola Zero Sugar. Operators can also add the likes of Fanta and Sprite to the offer at their discretion.
According to Grace, pubs that operate the campaign see, on average, wet sales increase by 9%. “The designated drivers are happy because they have an interesting range of drinks to choose from and they have a good deal, which means they want to stick around for longer. This means the drinkers in the group are more likely to purchase more alcoholic drinks and so it’s good for the pub.”
In food-led operations where the initiative is activated, the average spend per head increases further, he adds, but explains it is hard to fully attribute that to the campaign as footfall increases significantly anyway.
How do I get involved?
So, now it’s your time to apply for your Coca-Cola Designated Driver scheme PoS kit to activate in your pub.
The offer has grown significantly during the past 10 years, with 8,000 sites expected to activate this year. Apply for a kit while stocks last via a Coca-Cola sales representative or by contacting the customer hub on 0808 1 000 000 or on connect@CCEP.com.
Each kit will give operators promotional material and they will also be featured on the Pub Finder website, which shows consumers where participating pubs are.
Yet, it is not just about keeping those drivers happy and on the right side of the law, far from it, according to Grace. The activity is also the perfect platform to get pubs thinking about their soft drinks offer, how it fits with current trends and what it says about them.
Currently, more consumers are turning away from alcoholic drinks as they seek to lead a healthier lifestyle. So, while brushing up the soft drinks offer for Christmas, operators should consider how they can make their permanent all-year-round offering more exciting too.
Grace also highlights that the campaign is not just for those countryside destination pubs with a car park, adding that city centre pubs can benefit from it too. Commuters from the suburbs and surrounding countryside leave their cars at provincial train stations before heading into the city, which means they will still drive home.
The campaign has also grown beyond just free-of-tie businesses and into managed estates, such as Greene King pubs, as more see the benefits of promoting a social responsible message to customers, as well as seeing the business boost.
To activate the campaign, operators just need to apply for a kit from CCEP (see box), display the point of sale and speak to customers about the two-for-one offer on selected soft drinks. The offer will work, logistically, in different ways depending on the outlet, explains Grace.
“But in most cases, the outlet will give the drink away for free because they see the benefit of increasing the dwell time of the group, and that’s why we’ve run it consistently for 10 years,” he says. Many pubs taking part in the campaign will also be given a free case of a product to get them started.
For the future of the campaign, Grace is looking to get other drinks companies involved, as the message transcends CCEP.
“We’re also up weighting our consumer advertising campaign to further amplify the message, making it bigger and increasing awareness,” he adds.