the real fa cup

Budweiser: Half Term Report

It’s half-term report time. The qualifying rounds are over and we enter the realms of the ‘propers. We’re not interested in the school-kids here, we’re interested in the new sponsors, Budweiser, FIFA World Cup partner, lovers of football sponsorship and sparkly new sponsors of the FA Cup. What have they done well and what have they done badly?

In short, they have done one thing superbly. And very little else.

The tournament kicked off on 19th August with a unique and powerful development. A live streamed game via the Budweiser Facebook channel. Hello Football!  We had this to say. Choice quote: ” … when the first rumblings of this gimmick (for want of a better word) surfaced we raised an eyebrow and wondered what tomfoolery we’d have to endure. We needn’t have worried.”

Two Footed Tackle said this. Choice quote: “But what tonight’s FA Cup game does show is there is a willing audience for this level of football – they just need to be told about it. Whether tonight’s figures were boosted by the novelty factor or there is an untapped appetite and market can only be answered if Budweiser continue to broadcast games throughout the competition.”

IMG_0885.jpg The fanfare was bright, crisp, loud and an impressive piece of coverage followed. As most of you probably know, after the first movement came not the second but, well, nothing. Constipation. Several hundred people commented or ‘liked’ the event on the Budweiser Facebook page during and immediately after the game.

The thirst was there on their Facebook Wall, on Aug 3th Stu Harvey asked “any FA Cups this weekend”?  “Sadly not this weekend, Stu, but stay tuned …” replied Budweiser, as if inferring regret but intent that there would be more! Soon! The excitement was tangible.

On the 3rd of September, with little further comment, I wrote on their ‘Wall’ “Why no FA Cup game this round?”  The enthusiastic but cautious response was “Hi Damon, thanks for the interest – we’re looking into the possibility of hosting more games. As I’m sure you can imagine, it’s a pretty complicated process!”

FFWD to 8th September and enthusiasm levels seemed up. “So, who wants to see more of The FA Cup live on Facebook?” piped Bud. 54 people commented, most positively, 311 ‘liked’ the statement as if to suggest “YES!”. Five days passed. On the 13th Ola Andersson popped by to enquire if there would be “… an FA-Cup game on Saturday”?  The response, more matter-of-fact this time, was “Hi Ola – sorry, we won’t be showing an FA Cup game this Saturday”  Oh well, they’ve probably spent time examining the stats, facts and figures and haven’t had time to sort out a game for this round.

16th September: Conor Carrol adds to the number of persons to enquire about more games.  3 days pass … Bud: “Hi Conor – we’re still looking in to it – as you can imagine it’s all quite difficult to work out. Thanks for being patient…”  So, looks like the caution levels are increasing but the sign off hints at possibilities.

Also on the 16th Mike Houghton makes the same enquiry. He gets no response at all.  Well, maybe Bud thought he’d see the other response?  Or maybe, you wonder, they’re getting a bit bored of this football malarky and the attendant questions.

The cynical among you will have long since given up.

Meanwhile, on the 24th September Budweiser suddenly remembers it sponsors the FA Cup and “T-minus seven days until The FA Cup second round qualifier, grab a Bud and begin the count down!” arrives in the feed. Several people enquire what game they’re doing. Response? You guessed it? Zip.

And then on the 27th of September, with more gusto, apparently “The FA Cup is hotting up! Are we expecting any upsets?”  This is promising, surely they’ll be covering a game?  No.  More people enquire about a streamed game on Facebook. Yet again, not a single answer. This is getting just plain rude?

And on the 29th of September Andrew R Miles requests an update on the earlier (16th Sept) thread. Silence. Later that day it all becomes clear. “226 days, 00 hours and 14 minutes until The FA Cup final!” Err, but what about the 11 rounds between then and now? Any genuine interest in the FA Cup, or just the final?  After that, the FA Cup drops off the Bud radar. BUT HELLO NFL AT WEMBLEY!!!! Five posts in five days about NFL.  Budweiser sponsor the game.

IMG_0891.jpg But, hold on, whoah, hang on, what’s this, the third qualifying round gets a brief, half-hearted mention. They probably wished they hadn’t bothered. The less cynical, it seems, have now removed the wool from their eyes and knitted a natty woolen FA Cup. “So no more live games to be shown on here then? Only replays and one more round before the ‘big boys’ come in..” says Peter Gearing. I add “So, no more streamed games then? Some cynics said it was just a one off promo gimick. Appears they were right.”

I was expecting no response but, to Bud’s credit, they actually responded this time, with more of their ‘wait and see’ line but now with a concession of ‘probably not’.  “Hi Damon, we are unconfirmed as of yet if we will be streaming any more games but do keep checking back with us!” Forgive me, Mr Anheuser Busch, if I don’t hold my breath, or check back later. Mr Gearing, too, chips back in with as salient a point as any could make “Pity. A missed opportunity to showcase the clubs that make the FA Cup what it is”.  Quite.

So, that’s that then? Well, more or less, but the next two FA Cup related posts are just bizarre, tokenistic, transparent banalities.  We arrive at the 4th Qualifying Round and any pretence of caring about the football appears to have gone. Its as if they’re saying “Thank god this early charade is nearly over, we’ve kept the early uptakers going with ‘please call back’ and now the real teams come in”.

Oh yes, the bizarre posts … It’s now all about the Bud. On 26th of October: “In anticipation of The FA Cup Fourth Round Qualifiers we have made some furniture rearrangements. The mini fridge is now within perfect arm’s length of the sofa.” Errr, that’s grand but how will you be watching any football from the comfort of your sofa? There are no games on live.  Three days later – “Half an hour before the Fourth Round Qualifiers kick off. Are your Buds cool?”  Well, errr, possibly but what will you be watching while drinking them?  Certainly not FA Cup football. Unless your sofa is in a football ground and your fridge is out of sight of the pitch. Most odd.

We’re nearly up to date now. Bar a plug for their compo to be a judge on the Player Of The Round panel, there is very little else until, on the 4th of November, they laud Spurs for being the last non-league team to win the Cup.  Hmmm, you can’t help but ponder that if they were that bothered about non-league, they might actually have made more effort beyond their ‘HELLO, WE’RE NEW SPONSORS OF THE FA CUP’ statement on August the 19th.  Here is a smooth marketing operation brazenly trying to make it sound like they care. I say smooth, the fanfare was silky, managing expectation was a complete shambles.

Going back to our comments about the game, at the time it happened: “Is this the future for such sporting events? Well, Budweiser did themselves, the FA Cup, the FA and football a power of good tonight, much to the very surprise of this website. I hope they keep it up because with this level of effort it could invigorate grass roots football, people could see that there is something in their community worth supporting. We are putting our cynicism on hold for a while to take stock.”

Two Footed Tackle said: “And who knows, perhaps it may even provide the shot in the arm the FA Cup has needed in the eyes of the public. Maybe there’s no need to fiddle around with scrapping replays, and other aspects of the format. Maybe all the competition needed was to catch up with 21st century methods of communication.”

  • Is this still the future for sporting events? Could be.
  • Did Budwesier keep it up? Errr, no.
  • Have we taken stock? Yeah, jus’ chilling with a BUDFAIL. Our reserved cynicism was well-founded. Budweiser appear not to be the shot in the arm for the FA Cup, which is a shame.
  • And, finally, I’m disappointed to say my cynicism was never really placed on the back-burner. That photo of the Bud in a puddle? It was taken two months ago, I just knew it would come in handy.
  1. Spot on. I posted the following on the Budweiser UK wall today in response to a question about whether people are excited about the First Round Proper draw:

    “Not as excited as I would be if my team were still involved!

    To be honest, I am more disappointed that after that first game between Ascot United and Wembley no more games were broadcast.

    A real opportunity has been missed here – if the transmissions had continued, the universal magic of The FA Cup could have been shared with a whole new audience and Budweiser could have made a real difference to the grassroots game. It is a shame that no-one who could have facilitated transmissions realised that.”

    Five “likes” so far… predictably, no response from the PR bods running the page.

    • Damon Threadgold

      It’s starting to look that way, Gareth. Great comment, let us know if there is a response, we’ve stopped following them.

      • Nothing as yet. I “unliked” their page once I’d left the comment, but I can still view their wall to check for a response (or lack of). It won’t surprise you that there have been other questions on that thread as to whether a game would be televised which haven’t elicited a response.

        I’m an ale man, anyway…

  2. The likes of ITV, ESPN and Budweiser clearly do not give a damn about grass-roots football, they have absolutely no idea of the history of F.A Cup giantkillings as shown by their repeated crap TV choices.

    They do not get the importance of non-league to this country’s national sport – I mean how many players have played for England, not now but when we were quite good (Geoff Hurst/Chelmsford City springs to mind).

    And anyone who drinks Budweiser and sits on a sofa to watch football is, by definition, not a football fan.

    Give me Southend Manor, Arlesey Town and Redbridge anytime of the day.

    • Damon Threadgold

      Can’t help but agree with a lot of what you say, HKG.

      The trouble is, for broadcasters and sponsors alike, they may only be in it for a short term, maybe 3 years at a time. It is not set up to benefit football as whole, over a long period, and that is an inherent problem with the TV/sponsorship system. The FA can’t really commit to longer deals because they may end up losing out financially if the revenues to TV companies went up.

      Because of this short term, the TV/sponsors have to make their money while they can. They do that by showing the biggest teams possible as often as possible – Bigger teams = bigger viewing figures = bigger revenue, immediately. Showing small teams doesn’t get that immediate financial hit and it is difficult for them to see tangible results over such a short term. If the TV/Sponsorship deals were longer, say 20 years, then they might pay more attention to this longevity – however, they or the FA could easily get stiffed on such a deal. If anyone has any bright ideas about how to get round that, please let everyone know.

      In defence of the football people at both ITV and ESPN, they have made efforts in the last few years to do more and many of the people we know at both have a big interest in non-league football, some even write about it! It’s not them you have to convince though, it’s the ‘money men’, for want of a better word.

      Cheers for the comment, Damon,

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