Newcastle Brown Ale

Marketing, October 28, 2009 | Go to article overview

Newcastle Brown Ale


The relocation of production to Yorkshire could damage an already faltering brand.

Geordies who want to 'take the dog for a walk' - a local euphemism for going to the pub, and the origin of one of Newcastle Brown Ale's affectionate nicknames - will soon need to venture a bit further to get their hands on a bottle at source.

Scottish and Newcastle (S&N), owner of the iconic bottled ale, is to shift production of the 80-year-old brand from Tyneside to Tadcaster in Yorkshire to save an estimated pounds 13m-pounds 14m a year.

The news will come as yet another blow to Geordie pride following the ejection of Newcastle United from the top flight of English football. During brighter days in the 90s, the club's strip was sponsored by Newcastle Brown and, at one point, featured only the brand's distinctive blue star logo.

S&N, which, in a further sign of the effects of globalisation, will itself shortly be renamed Heineken UK, has said that it has no plans to make any labelling or marketing changes.

However, 'Newky Brown', or 'the Dog', or just plain 'Broon' has been in decline in the UK for some years and is performing worse than the beer market as a whole. Indeed, sales in the US now eclipse those in the UK. It seems likely, therefore, that the gradual removal of the brand's heritage could further jeopardise its future.

Will Newcastle Brown ever be reet canny again? We asked Oliver Lewis-Barclay, managing director of Hooper Galton, who has worked on beer brand Sapporo, and Simon Davies, an ex-marketing director at Coors and managing director of MMIXX, for their views.

DIAGNOSIS

- Two industry experts on whether Newky Brown is making a wise move

OLIVER LEWIS-BARCLAY, MANAGING DIRECTOR, HOOPER GALTON

They used to say that every pint contained one of Gazza's tears. Not any more. 'Newky Brown' is leaving 'Newky' to move 100 miles down the road, and the world is not happy.

The media have pounced hysterically on the story. Even quite sensible marketing folk I know have said this signals the end of the brand.

Nonsense. As The Wire's Stringer Bell might say: 'It jus' bidness.' Times are tough, beer sales are down, the brewery at Dunston is running at 60% capacity. This situation cannot be sustained.

It therefore makes unarguable sense to use the Tadcaster brewery instead, which has spare capacity and already brews the ale for export (which, significantly, accounts for nearly double the volume of UK sales).

Scottish & Newcastle/Heineken is lucky to own a brand that evokes such an emotional response. Those who love it will make a great big fuss, but carry on drinking it as soon as they realise it still tastes as great as it ever did. …

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