Source: By Han Bingbin in Beijing, Gao Changxin and Tang Zhihao in Shanghai (China Daily)
A sultry Friday night seems a perfect time for soccer fans to relax in a bar and watch the European Championship.
At Salitun’s Boys and Girls Bar, waiter Fu Xiaoliang said people passing by have been asking whether they will broadcast the game live.
Many of the other establishments along Beijing’s most dynamic bar street have set up huge projection screens and made room for additional seats.
At Furen Bar in Houhai, another bar area in Beijing, three projection screens have been set up inside and one outside. The TVs were already on the China Central Television sports channel, where preliminary reports of the games were setting the atmosphere. The 2 am closing time has been pushed back, and wine discounts and free fruits and snacks will be offered during the nearly month-long tournament that starts on Saturday, Beijing time.
Bar owners are obviously hoping to attract more soccer fans. Waiter Xiao Chen at Sanlitun’s No 60 Pizza expects to triple their normal daily sales on Friday night.
Guo Jinchao at Furen doesn’t set much store in opening day, since he believes the number of spectators will depend heavily on “whether strong and famous teams are playing”. He thinks the real rush will come after the quarterfinals. During previous international tournaments such as the World Cup, Guo said, seats for games from the quarterfinals onward would usually be booked days in advance.
During the week, the time difference with Europe might pose a problem as all the games kick off at midnight or later, Beijing time.
But hardcore fans will find ways to tackle the problem.
According to Wang Wen, president of the Beijing Soccer Fans Association, some people will take their annual leave or ask for some days off during international soccer tournaments like the World Cup and the European Championship. Others may choose to change their routines, for example, going to bed around 8 pm, getting up to watch games around 3 am and preparing for work after the game.
Heady time for beer
Some beer producers are also busy during the tournament, and flags from Danish brewer Carlsberg — the official partner of the European Football Championship for 24 years — flutter along Sanlitun’s bar street.
The company plans to introduce a new product into the Chinese market during the event and is also sponsoring Chinese fans to watch games in person in Ukraine.
But some brands have chosen to stay low-key during the tournament, putting their focus on other fields.
China Resources Snow Brewery, which invested more than 80 million yuan ($12.5 million) just in television commercials during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, featured a photo contest on its website.
Budweiser is busying sponsoring concerts and Harbin Brewery, an official partner of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, has committed itself to the National Basketball Association playoffs.
Tsingtao Brewery has set its eyes on the London Olympic Games in August, sponsoring a TV reality show that selects cheerleaders for the Olympics.
Could it be that Carlsberg’s official status has scared off the competition? Not necessarily, said Li Bingyang, a beer industry analyst with Adfaith Management Consulting.
Being an official partner certainly gives a company an edge in marketing, he said, but that doesn’t prevent other players from taking part.
In fact, it is a common practice for many breweries to make an appearance at the same event, he added.
“The reason breweries snubbed the European Championship this year is that the competitive landscape in China’s beer industry has changed over the past few years,” Li said.
AB InBev, the world’s biggest brewer that owns 14 beer brands including Budweiser, spent millions to promote Harbin Brewery during the 2010 World Cup, after buying the Chinese beer maker in 2004. But sales growth fell short of expectations, said Li, adding AB InBev has changed its marketing strategy in China since then.
“The era has come where marketing will target more and more specific customer segments. So big sports meets such as the European Championship will be of less importance for brewers,” Li said.