Wimbledon. Tennis. Strawberries and cream. Centre Court. Cliff Richard. Robinson’s Barley Water. Nothing much changes.
So I was eagerly awaiting what Robinson’s, now owned by soft-drink conglomerate Britvic, would serve up to showcase its involvement in this year’s championship in the brand's 83rd year at SW19. Now I’m not one for backhanded compliments, but I’m seriously impressed with this length of the brand’s continuous participation.
The creative execution forms part of a £1m marketing campaign that includes limited-edition merchandise and packs, sampling activity and a Robinson’s pop-up cafe. It also heralded the launch of a personalisable reusable drinks bottle at Wimbledon as part of Britvic’s ongoing commitment to plastic pollution.
Kevin McNair, GB marketing director at Britvic, in announcing the campaign, was particularly proud of the fact that his organisation had signed up to the UK Plastics Pact, a pioneering agreement designed to keep plastic in the economy and out of the ocean. Nice one Kev.
The Big Idea
Step 1: Book Tim Henman and think, shit, what do we do next, we’ve just paid quite a lot of money for him?
Step 2: Write a try-too-hard-to-be-funny script, the gist of which is a teenage actor on Henman Hill pretending that he mistakes Tim for Andy Murray.
Step 3: Script gets rejected by client for trying too hard to be funny.
Step 4: Add in the brand message that it is thanks to the personalised reusable drinks bottle that the teenage actor will never make that mistake again.
Step 5: Client thinks script is better, but rejects it because it is ‘still missing something’.
Step 6: Killer end scene added where Sir Tim decides to erect a sign that says 'Henman Hill', thereby proving it is his territory and not Murray’s Mound as the teenage actor had thought it was.
Step 7: Script gets reluctantly accepted by client, mainly because the deadline is now looming. Production budget of £25 in third-party costs signed off.
Step 8: Two small tables and a white tablecloth are ‘borrowed’ from the account exec’s Mum’s flat and brought to Henman Hill/Murray Mound. Teenage ‘actor’ hired for minimum wage. Assorted fruits purchased from Tesco Metro on The Broadway in Wimbledon town centre. Robinson’s product couriered over from client.
Step 9: One-minute film is made. It actually is quite amusing and good fun.
Step 10: Film is seeded via Robinson’s social channels, YouTube, Facebook etc, organic and paid for.
Step 11: Editorial coverage is generated for the film to support the release.
What They Did
What they didn’t do is more relevant here. Not a long time before, Robinson’s released a TV ad for its Refresh’d grab and go bottle, one of the key products in its new look range. Rather inappropriately it featured a young woman drinking some Robinson’s Refresh’d through a plastic straw. Said straw then zooms through the biosphere, puncturing various fruits, winding itself around trees, before ending up in a stream of natural water. The taste of natural fruit mixed with fresh water is, you see, what it is trying to communicate here. But it’s almost as if Britvic wanted to create a visual metaphor for what plastic is doing to our environment. It beggared belief really.
Turns out a lot of people thought the same way and Robinson’s had a bit of a crisis on its hands! It still rumbles on. It has dealt with unflattering comments about the ad with a limp stock answer that referred to the straw in the ad as a ‘fantasy paper straw’ (it certainly looks plastic) and stating how it doesn’t actually produce any straws. It still gets comments on Twitter about it and more recently news sites like Ad Turds have weighed in even more aggressively.
The bottom line is I think that Britvic as an organisation probably cares about the environment, because, after all, who doesn’t? But I don’t believe that the commitment is something that is truly embedded in its DNA. And that shows in this one creative example.
If it was really concerned with the future of the planet and its role in it, there is no way it would have let the ad for Refesh’d go out.
Instead it just brushed it off and produced some light-hearted social media content months later for Wimbledon, which didn’t really tackle any environmental issues. For me, it certainly didn’t get anywhere near Kevin McNair’s ambition of showcasing Britvic’s ongoing commitment to tackling plastic pollution. It was just flippant and transient, albeit perhaps mildly amusing.
I’m still a bit perplexed that brands and their agencies don’t quite get it. Brands are completely transparent things these days. You can’t do bad stuff and expect to get away with it, hoping people don’t notice. You could get away with it maybe in the days when Robinson’s first got involved in Wimbledon, but not now.
A smash this idea certainly wasn’t…
Robinson’s has bags of heritage. It is an iconic brand. There is a lot of love out there for it. Which was evidenced by the fact that although it got stick for the plastic straw double fault, it didn’t get a volley of abuse for it.
The brand’s access to Tim Henman and the Wimbledon estate puts it in an almost unique position. Surely something a bit more creative could have been done to link those two assets to the brand and its environmental concerns? If it really cared as a brand, it might have used its time with Tim to get a more meaningful message cross. Then it really could have been game, set and match to Robinson’s.