CLOSE-UP: CLIENT OF THE WEEK; Ale fan to wake sleeping giant

John Tylee meets the man with plans to make a big noise about London Pride

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

Newcastle Breweries.

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

and Marston’s.

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.