Kronenbourg – As French as the Duke of Wellington’s Wellingtons

Before Snickers, before Johnny English and the Barclaycard ads, Rowan Atkinson advertised an obscure French lager called Kronenbourg. Today Kronenbourg is one of the countless brands owned by Carlsberg, and the stuff drunk in the UK doesn’t go anywhere near France.

And that makes the 2014 Kronenbourg advertising campaign featuring Eric Cantona particularly interesting. Ogilvy and Mather were the agency behind the ad known as ‘The Farmers of Alsace’ – a place where the farmers who provide the hops for Kronenbourg are treated like footballers.

Now, the Advertising Standards Authority, in their wisdom, decided to ban the ad as the beer is made in the UK, and most of the hops used in the Kronenbourg brew aren’t French. Carlsberg replied that the recipe was an old French one, and ‘Brewed in the UK’ was clearly stated on screen during the ad.

An independent review lifted the ban. And in 2015 Ogilvy came up with their latest wheeze for Kronenbourg, with Cantona taking on ‘Le Big Swim’ across the English Channel with a little help from a waiting yacht.

Kronenbourg sales have been very high in recent years. It’s one of Carlsberg’s best performing brands.

Which rather suggests consumers aren’t too concerned about the fib at the heart of the Kronenbourg advertising. In fact – taking away Carling which isn’t marketed as having any particular nationality – similar fibs are the norm of lager advertising.

Fosters and Castlemaine might be Australian brands but their beers were made in the UK. Likewise that Bavarian favourite Hofmeister and that classic French brew Stella Artois (or is it Dutch?). However spurious the foreign heritage it’s sold on, the British consumer keeps on lapping it up.