John Tylee meets the man with plans to make a big noise about London
The Fuller’s brewery in West London, where beer has been made for 325
years, is a world away from drinks giants such as Scottish Courage. But
John Roberts, Scottish Courage’s former strategic planning director,
couldn’t be happier that he’s made the switch.
The move seems a curious one for a man involved in some of the most
memorable drinks advertising of recent years, including the John Smith’s
campaign for Courage starring Jack Dee.
And Roberts could have carried on playing an influential role in the
company born out of the merger between Courage and Scottish and
So why quit? Mostly, he says, because of the chance to accelerate his
career with one of the brewing industry’s wannabes. Aged 38, and now
Fuller’s marketing director, Roberts is out to realise the brewer’s
ambition to be a more robust competitor against the likes of Greene King
The focus of that ambition is London Pride, now moving out of its
heartland via distribution deals with the major multiples and the
subject of a pounds 1.5 million campaign through Doner Cardwell Hawkins
(Campaign, last week).
London Pride - described by Roberts as a ‘sleeping giant’ - has
previously had little ad support. Also, he adds, the campaign will need
to make a noise out of all proportion to its modest budget.
The brand was voted bitter of the year by the Campaign for Real Ale,
although Roberts concedes this may not cut too much ice with saloon bar
‘Bitter drinkers are generally more discerning than your average
drinker,’ he says. ‘Whether they’re taxi drivers or doctors, they are
likely to be strongly opinionated - and not just about beer.’
Roberts started in marketing at Britvic, followed by a 13-year stint at
United Biscuits. His drinks experience was gained at Courage, where he
was group marketing controller for ales and stout.
His own favourite tipple is an extra strong ale called ESB that you
chill for 24 hours before drinking. ‘It’s wonderful,’ he claims.
Naturally, it’s brewed by Fuller’s.