By Azure Janneker – SAB and Steuart Pennington – SA Good News
“I’ve been to Soccer City and the Innes Free Fan Park, but I’m going to watch the next game at a Castle Kingdom tavern in one of the townships.” “A what?” “A Castle Kingdom…you know, the true personification of warm South African hospitality and festivity and offers a World Cup viewing experience like no other,” was the reply. “It’s an SAB initiative to transform the taverns and bars across the country. The aim is to offer locals and visitors alike a World Cup experience filled with a uniquely vibrant South African atmosphere”
“Lekker, can I join you?”
And so we found our way into Soweto to experience another jol that is making this World Cup, according to Jerome Valcke of FIFA “almost perfect”.
Anyone who has been to a “tavern” (or “shebeens” as they’re more commonly known) in Soweto, will agree that, but for a few exceptions, they can be pretty run down establishments. Usually a few trestle type tables with wooden benches greet the visitor. There may be the odd outdated poster on the wall, a few cut-off beer tins as ashtrays, toilets down the road, a large fridge and glasses (if you are lucky) as most of the beer is consumed out of quart bottles. The focus of this initiative was however to transform approximately 550 outlets in 42 townships across the country. In March, three months prior to the World Cup event kick-off, the transformation of taverns began. Through an infrastructure upgrade, these facilities became bright, inviting and rejuvenated soccer-themed venues. A Castle Kingdom is clearly identifiable on approach. The distinct colours of red, gold and white adorn the outside walls, a welcoming sight amidst the often dusty surrounds of taverns. It provides an open invitation to curious passers-by and what they discover inside is what SAB believes will have a lasting legacy and long term benefit for perceptions and tourism in South Africa. With each Castle Kingdom, a new tourist attraction has been established. It makes sense for Castle Lager to rally the nation behind the biggest international sporting event. It is widely recognised as the country’s national beer and has been a proud supporter of the national football team, Bafana Bafana, since 1992. The Castle Kingdoms initiative forms part of SAB’s R170 million investment to support South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 World Cup event.
“As a leading South African corporate, we have a clear obligation to demonstrate leadership in every dimension of our business. Given the magnitude of the opportunity that the World Cup presents for our country, we have decided to make a contribution to the event, despite the fact that we are not an official sponsor,” said Norman Adami, SAB Managing Director.
SAB has also invested in several other campaigns:
The first of these campaigns is the Castle Superfans, which was launched in October 2009, and was aimed at rallying the nation to get behind Bafana Bafana on their journey to hosting the World Cup. The 16 fans are now familiar faces on local television and at World Cup matches.
The second campaign is Bula Boot, which is a metaphor for SAB’s hospitality. It involves a two person team driving to venues – a designated driver and a host. There are 100 teams of two people in the nine host cities who travel to major events, including sports matches and music concerts. The teams invite people arriving at the events to have a drink and a snack in true South African spirit.
Castle Kingdoms is the third of these campaigns, and involves an investment of R40 million.
So as we arrived, we were greeted not by the expected dark interior, but one splashed with colour. Posters of Superfans decorated the walls immediately getting one in the mood for the upcoming match. Innovative branded cocktail tables, not a feature often seen in taverns, gives the space a social jovial atmosphere and flat screen televisions hoisted up on walls round off the ‘sports bar’ tavern feel – perfect for viewing matches.
The experience was overwhelming. Many owners whose taverns have been transformed into Castle Kingdoms report that the changes have done wonders for their businesses by attracting new customers. The usual crowds from the immediate vicinity of the tavern are now joined by others from further afield interested in discovering what the face-lift is all about. Importantly, both local and visiting football fans in South Africa enjoy this experience along with SAB’s responsible drinking campaign. Plans are in place to extend this campaign into the PSL season as a “football occasion” and continue with the process of establishing more “Castle Kingdoms” into the future. Like South Africa’s famous vuvuzela, a Castle Kingdom is sure to leave a lasting impression on all who experience it. I have to say though that I did not quite know, with my Caucasian looks, how to respond to the greeting of the barman when he enquired “Ein bieren, bitte?”