GREAT BRITISH BRANDS: Robinsons - Long Linked with the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, the Drinks-Maker Is Today about More Than Barley Water

Marketing, August 1, 2002 | Go to article overview

GREAT BRITISH BRANDS: Robinsons - Long Linked with the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, the Drinks-Maker Is Today about More Than Barley Water


Ahh. Robinsons barley water. Surely no non-alcoholic drink has managed to evoke long summer days more successfully than this lemon, orange, lime and even rhubarb-flavoured squash.

And it was its early sponsorship of the All-England lawn tennis championships at Wimbledon (as far back as 1928) that arguably did the most to establish its place in the hearts and minds of British mums. Long before it resorted to commercial TV advertising, it was visible to an audience of millions on the BBC for a fraction of the cost.

The association with Wimbledon was an incredibly powerful one and remains so to this day, despite the arrival of other beverages at the umpire's chair. Robinsons has built on its sponsorship by supporting British number one Tim Henman since 1998, and working with the Lawn Tennis Association on major grassroots tennis sponsorship (the Robinsons Aces) to increase British chances in the game. This grassroots work has included the launch of 'street tennis', which uses a racket and a ball but does away with the court and the net and is designed to test hand-eye co-ordination and introduce youngsters from the inner cities to the game.

Of course, though sponsorship has been a cornerstone of Robinsons' success, there are many other elements to the Robinsons mix. The earliest ingredient was the health sell. Barley water was originally a Victorian cure-all for fevers and kidney complaints. But the real breakthrough for the brand came in 1935 when it developed the first 'ready-to-use' barley water cordial.

From that moment, new product development was a constant, with lemon barley crystals and new lime, orange and rhubarb flavours.

After the war, we saw the first 'squash', 'smash' (later called 'whole orange drink') carbonated drinks, low calorie substitutes, a baby syrup, pure baby juices, cordials and fruit juices, as well as other new flavours.

Since Robinsons was bought by soft-drink giant Britvic in 1995, that product development has continued apace and it is now the 11th biggest grocery brand, purchased by one-in-two households. Today the Robinsons line-up includes products for all the family, including the premium barley water, Robinsons Original (which was actually launched in 1988), Special R (a no sugar product), High Juice (adults) and Fruit Break, plus a kids range called Fruit Shoot, which has been a very successful recent launch.

This portfolio approach is backed up by the excellent category management, packaging innovation and research skills of the Britvic team. …

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