CAMPAIGNS: Bass rolls out the poll barrel - Media Relations

Elections are good for business especially if you’re a Westminster publican.

Elections are good for business especially if you’re a Westminster


The Bass-managed Marquis of Granby is situated within 500 yards of the

main parties’ headquarters.

As the press descended on SW1, Manager Mike Bowler wondered how to

capitalise on his pub’s ringside location. He came up with the idea of

running an election ale poll, with pints of beer replacing ballot papers

in deciding the country’s fate.


To promote two Westminster pubs - the Marquis of Granby and the White

Horse and Bower - to journalists and tourists and to publicise Bass

Taverns and the Bass brand.


With support from Bass, a special, limited edition election brew was

commissioned from the Bass Museum micro brewery in Burton-on-Trent.

Although sold in both pubs, pints of election ale only counted as votes

when bought in the Marquis of Granby. The leaders of the three main

parties were each allocated a pump selling election ale, complete with a

caricatured portrait.

Customers were asked which pump they wished to be served from and the

results recorded on a beerometer.

The campaign focused on national press and TV although the international

media was also important as a means of telling tourists where to find

the pubs.

A key challenge for the agency was maintaining press interest throughout

the four weeks, in the face of strong competition from ’real’ political

stories. This was addressed by regular news updates on the party

leaders’ progress over the period of the campaign. The story’s strong

visual element provided opportunities for press and TV.


With 1,067 votes however, for Tony Blair compared with 1,037 for Paddy

Ashdown, Labour’s victory was hardly a drinkslide. John Major collected

just 819 votes.

Media coverage of the poll included the Independent, the Guardian,

Reuters, CNN, Fox Cable and Channel 4. There was coverage on Japanese TV

and on TV and radio stations in seven European countries. Profits at the

Marquis of Granby rose by pounds 6,000 in the last two weeks of the



The campaign did not make a big impact on the UK press, most notably the

tabloids for whom the story would have been ideal. One explanation is

that many journalists were out following the campaign trail. However, it

generated strong interest in the international press who warmed to the

story’s quirky nature. Bass Taverns felt it was an encouraging result

for a project which, according to PR manager Janice Clark, was ’just a

bit of fun’.

Client: Bass Taverns

PR Team: Companycare

Campaign: Election ale poll

Timescale: 1 April - 1 May 1997

Cost: Undisclosed

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