Co-op slammed by pubs for Euros ads

By Ed Bedington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Co-operatives uk Cooperative Pub Sport retail Supermarkets Football

The Co-op has come under fire from pub operators after its latest adverts urged punters to shun the pub and stay home to watch the football.

The retailer has put out a series of TV and radio adverts claiming ““It’s hard to see the screen in the pub, stay in with two pizzas and four beers…” geared around promotional offers during the Euros 2024 tournament.

Comments from pub operators on Facebook branded the ad “disgusting” and “ridiculous” and one said the company’s “ethical approach has long been forgotten”.

Sam Chance, who runs hospitality marketing business Scrumptious, said: “Adverts like this from Co-op, a business with big budgets and big profits is pretty poor in my eyes.

“Pubs bring people together to celebrate sport in a way no other environment can. In addition to this, England reaching the quarter finals sets pubs up for a super Saturday that will add millions to the British economy!

“One thing I won’t be doing Saturday is staying in and eating an oven pizza.”

Attack or compliment?

However, Joe Buckley, award winning licensee of the Tollemache Arms, in Harrington, took the ad as a compliment to the sector. He said: “I think it actually shows the strength pubs bring to the economy, that when big events like this are happening, retail takes a huge hit and has to directly attack the pub industry to be able to claw some wins. 

“Pubs will always be the place where people celebrate and lose together, relationships are strengthened and where memories are made. The front room of any house is never going to replicate that feeling so for Co-op to do what they have done, should be seen as a compliment to the pub sector. I’m not sure I’d want my lasting memory of us beating Switzerland to be sat in my lounge eating a dry slice of Co op pizza.”

Anthony Pender, founder of the Yummy Collective, also hit back: "Why go out see your friends? The ones you missed in lock down, why leave your front door, why bother to experience the game with the excitement (and often disappointment) of others. We can’t all make it to the stadium but we can find a local pub to soak up some of the atmosphere of major a tournament. And after celebrate (or commiserate with friends).

"Much better idea, sit in doors, one or two of you, on the sofa you’ve spent far too much time doing ‘Netflix & chill’ and enjoy a pizza that has more in common with cardboard than it does with a decent snack in a pub. Let’s not even start on those beers in the ad vs a fresh poured pint!

"Co-op you are doing the community you say you serve a disservice (and Budweiser you are accountable by mechanising such a deal). This is up there with when M&S stole the term Gastro Pub, put it on boxes and tried to sell over salted who knows what as freshly prepared dishes many of us put heart and passion into every day."

'Pub is best'

Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive of UKHospitality, said: “It’s a simple fact that the best place to watch the football is in the pub, with fans coming together to create an unrivalled atmosphere to cheer on England. It’s clear the country agrees, with pubs packed with fans and sales seeing a considerable boost throughout the Euros.

“It’s an easy choice this summer – head to the pub to cheer on England and support your local.”

Steve Alton, CEO of the British Institute of Innkeeping, added: “The Euros have provided an essential lifeline for so many independent pubs. Following a poor start to summer, the football, helped by England’s progression, has been a vital shot in the arm for trading.  

“At a time where operating profitably is so challenging, with the exceptional costs of doing business, this trade is so important. Pubs bring people together to enjoy sport like no other place. For any retail business to negatively target pub customers is incredibly disappointing at this crucial time for our nation's pubs.”

Campaign group CAMRA also expressed disappointment in the decision. Tom Stainer, CAMRA chief executive said: "Pubs and clubs are a vital part of our communities and we would urge all retailers to support them, during this difficult economic time. International and national sporting events provide a lifeline for pubs, an uplift in income, while providing a wonderful atmosphere.

"Playing a key role in bringing communities together, pubs help to reduce loneliness and providing an important lifeline to thousands across the country. As well as getting behind your national football team, let’s all get behind our nation's favourite places to socialise.  

"It is disappointing to see any retailer trying to persuade football fans to skip supporting their local and enjoying the community experience of watching the Euros in a local pub with their friends. We would hope Co-op quickly realises its error and does not run this advert again.

"CAMRA is also surprised the Co-op is encouraging people to stay away from pubs, as their values have always been very supportive of local businesses, along with their commitment to well-being, a golden thread which runs throughout pubs across the entire UK."

Playing down the advert as “light-hearted”, a Co-op spokesperson said: “The 10 second advert is a light-hearted way of highlighting to our members and customers that, if they have made the choice to stay in to watch the football, we have a cracking pizza and beer deal they can purchase to enjoy in their homes.”

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