There’s a bit going on in Spain at the moment, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that recent drink-sponsorship machinations have passed unnoticed. But there’s a big mover and shaker in this sphere that deserves discussion: Tour de France darling Tourtel Twist has just landed an even bigger fish, signing on for the Paris Olympics as the Official Non-Alcoholic Beer Sponsor of the XXIII Olympiad.
If you’re not familiar with the Tourtel Twist, I think it’s safe to assume that you haven’t been to the Tour de France in the last two years, because the place is absolutely riddled with the stuff. It’s in the start village, it’s being lobbed at spectators by the caravan, and it’s in the press room. Don’t be fooled by the fake grass on the caravan floats and the whimsical shirts that the Tourtel people wear: this is a company that is deadly serious about exchanging millions of euros in sponsorship to synergise its non-alcoholic beer down the consumer’s throat.
As a drink, it’s a real mixed bag. When you think of non-alcoholic beer, you are probably thinking of something that tastes of beer, which this doesn’t. (If I’ve played my cards right, you’re thinking specifically of Remco Evenepoel’s non-alcoholic beer, but I digress). These little green cans have fruity designs on the exterior to reflect their flavour – I have first-hand experience with lemon, raspberry, rhubarb, and the stealthy star of the show, mojito. When you crack the can, you will find inside lightly-carbonated, barley-stained brown liquid.
Does it look like wastewater? Exceptionally so. Does it taste good? That really depends on your level of dehydration and/or heat stroke. Some days, when you are in a sweaty gymnasium and you’ve just pounded a molten cup of France’s Worst Coffee and washed it down with a cup of France’s Worst Bottled Water, a Tourtel is just what you need to restore a fragile equilibrium in your fraying state of mind. Other days, when hordes of much more earnest bicycle journalists raid the fridge after their post-stage interviews, stripping it of all the Orangina and then all the lemon-flavoured Tourtels and finally leaving the kinda sickly raspberry ones skulking at the back of the shelf, you wonder – not for the first time and certainly not the last – what you’re doing here.
For Tourtel, it now seems clear that dubious investment in the Tour de France was just a dress rehearsal for bigger things. According to Le Monde, which has a necessary finger on the pulse of this beat as a Serious Place for Serious French Journalism, Tourtel’s parent company Kronenbourg – itself owned by Carlsberg – has been angling for an Olympic sponsorship deal for “months”, and finally has its wish, signing on as the 34th ‘official supporter’ of the Paris Olympics, a third-tier designation below ‘premium partner’ and ‘official partner’.
The Paris 2024 organisers are expecting to receive an eye-widening €1.2 billion (US$1.3 billion) in sponsorship, which will cover around 28% of the event’s total budget. Tourtel Twist’s contribution to that pot has not been disclosed.
There are a decent number of sponsors at any Olympics, but in Tourtel’s case it comes with some extra scrutiny – for similar reasons to Budweiser’s involvement in the beer-free World Cup. The non-alcoholic beer sponsor this Olympic cycle will be particularly prominent following revelations in June of a Fun Double Standard; there will be no alcohol served at the Paris Olympics – unless you’re a VIP or living it large in a corporate hospitality tent, in which case you’ll have generous access to wine, spirits, and alcoholic beer that doesn’t taste like fruit. For all the plebs after something that says beer on the tin – even if it doesn’t taste like one – it’s Tourtel or nothing.
Tourtel’s marketing people are therefore pretty amped about the idea of getting hundreds of thousands of sports fans around their drink – especially those who really want a beer and can’t get one. Kronenbourg CEO Anders Røed claimed that “this partnership illustrates the exceptional development of the brand” [ed. from a drink you haven’t heard of and don’t want to drink to one you have heard of and will tolerate when desperate], saying that it was a “unique experience … to offer the public the opportunity to refresh themselves during convivial moments.”
Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet, meanwhile, continuing in a very C-word [convivial]-heavy vein, added that “with such a partner, we very concretely embody the values of sharing and conviviality which are the foundations of sport and which have all their place at the Games.”
Escape Collective wishes all participants and attendees of the Paris Olympics a convivial experience with their brown fruity mineral water that we are all pretending is a beer. Escape Collective also wishes all Paris 2024 executives, who have just been absolved of the most ‘serious’ corruption charges they were under multiple investigations for, all the best with their big piles of Tourtel euros.
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