This study demonstrates that despite a national prohibition of television advertising of alcohol in France under the Loi Evin, Carlsberg achieved over 70 min and 746 separate instances of apparent promotion of its branding and therefore, potentially, its beer through the use of two alibis: ‘Probably’ and ‘… the best in the world’ during the last seven games of the UEFA 2016 European Championships. Given the television viewing audience for each of these games, this advertising translated into between 92.3 million and 2.1 billion impressions of any alcohol content to the adult population, and between 6.9 and 163.3 million alcohol impressions to children aged 4 to 17 years old, although the distribution of these impressions varied both within and between the seven games investigated. Our figures for the seven games provide confirmation that an earlier estimated high exposure to these logos during the final match  also applied in the knock-out games; and by inference also occurred during the group stage matches.
The anticipated TV audience for UEFA Euro 2016 in 230 territories around the world was high: 150 million spectators were expected to follow each game live . The demographics of that audience have not been made public at the time of writing but if the international audience profile for the UEFA Euro 2016 follows that of the UK then an estimated 12.9 million children were exposed to Carlsberg billboards (based on 8.6% of the TV audience being aged 17 or under). An average of 829,000 children were exposed to Carlsberg alibi branding in the UK; if TV viewing figures in France mirror those of the Brazil World Cup, this translates to an average of 387,000 children exposed in each game. This exposure has occurred despite Loi Elvin prohibition of the targeting of minors. The explanation for the much lower alibi content in the France versus Iceland than the other matches we coded is not clear, but it is noteworthy that Iceland has its own laws prohibiting alcohol advertising , suggesting that alcohol advertising may have been reduced in that match to achieve relative compliance with Icelandic law. Iceland’s “Afengislog” (Law on Alcohol) clearly and simply states that “all advertising and marketing [of alcohol] is banned” and where television is concerned there is a “ban on advertising of alcohol and unique brands” .
Carlsberg has sponsored football clubs and tournaments including eight European championship finals, since at least 1988 . In 2016, Carlsberg anticipated that the Western European beer market would be static, apart from, “some positive impact during the early summer from UEFA EURO 2016™” . Carlsberg activated its sponsorship of UEFA EURO 2016™ planning for it to be “be an important event for the brand”  as football sponsorship had become an integral element of its commercial activity. Carlsberg has described its relationship with football previously as “a great fit” , being “part of Carlsberg’s DNA”  and “a key pillar of the Carlsberg brand, both short and longer term” .
Carlsberg’s traditional trademark logos are based on an original hand-drawn design by Thorvald Bindesbøll in 1904 [24, 25] (Fig. 1) but marketing has been extended to include other words and phrases often sharing the same font and general appearance. The phrase ‘Carlsberg - probably the best lager in the world’ was registered as a word mark in Europe in the year 2000 , and has been used by Carlsberg in a range of advertisements applying the phrase to a range of settings, establishing both the word ‘Probably’ and ‘… the best …. in the world’ as brand alibis. ‘Probably’ was registered as a European wordmark in 2010. Carlsberg’s “Probably the best lager in the world” word mark has been described as an example of one which “acts as a direct carrier of the brand’s equity reminding consumers of their liking for the brand and reinforcing the brand equity at repeated exposures” . Since beer is a heavily advertised and competitive product category, market advantages are derived from relatively small product differences, creating a greater reliance on communicative platforms. Butler and Berry used ‘Carlsberg—probably the best lager in the world’ as an example of a positive brand claim in the form of a slogan . Such slogans are intended to affect how consumers perceive a brand, both in its own right and when judged against the competition, by creating brand awareness by linking the brand to a product category; shaping brand evaluations by priming specific brand associations and transferring likeability; and reinforcing brand awareness and evaluations by serving as a memory aid .
Previous research has shown that alibi marketing has been used to circumvent restrictions on sponsorship of Formula One racing by Philip Morris International, through their use of ‘barcode’ designs as a substitute for Marlboro logos after the European Directive on tobacco advertising came into force in 2005 . The alibi logos, which were not registered trademarks, were in due course voluntarily withdrawn. However in the present study we demonstrate a perhaps more egregious example of advertising through the use of alibis, which in this case are registered trademarks [31, 32]. By simply displaying the word “Probably” and the slogan “The best beer in the world,” shortened to “….the best in the world”, Carlsberg have been credited with having solved, from its point of view, the problem of the Loi Evin, “in a very creative way by simply using the slogan with which the company advertised its products from 1973 to 2011 worldwide” . Carlsberg has been described as one of “the big winners of Euro2016 with Probably” , and it has been hypothesized that the “marques alibis” had successfully worked around the Loi Evin whilst drawing attention to the process by which the subtle messages linking the alibi trademark and the mother brand had been correlated in the minds of consumers . Indeed, Glendinning (2016) calculated that Carlsberg had achieved a successful 50% prompted recall by using its ‘Probably’ slogan as an ‘alibi brand’ on the stadium LED boards throughout the UEFA EURO2016 tournament .
Despite being regarded as some of the strictest laws on alcohol advertising in Europe  the French Loi Evin has been variously described as controversial , ineffective  and its policing has been criticised by its very creator, Claude Evin . The Loi Evin has been consistently challenged, particularly by the alcohol industry  and as a result has been modified. Politicians including Emmanuel Macron, now the French President, was one such proponent. Whilst he personally failed, the law was subsequently changed in a way seen as being favourable to French regional wine producers  and future public health-motivated law makers must resist such influential lobbies.
Section L3323–3 of the French Public Health Code specifically bans the use of, “Propaganda or advertising”…. “in favour of an organisation, service, activity, product or article other than an alcoholic beverage which, by its design, use of a name, trademark, advertising emblem or other distinctive sign, recalls an alcoholic beverage” . We suggest that Carlsberg’s “Probably” message was not only a design, but a registered trademark, an advertising emblem and a distinctive sign that recalled an alcoholic beverage and therefore it contravened the Code. Some restrictions imposed by the Loi Evin have been lifted since 1991, including the use of billboards in sports grounds for alcohol advertising, however the ban on television transmission restrains this advertising for major events. , and this research therefore demonstrates an apparent contravention of the Loi Evin. Despite this Carlsberg defended their marketing actions et the Euro 2016 championships, reportedly stating that they “applied their own strict marketing standards in addition to legal requirements in countries where we operate” . It is the author’s suggestion that the ban in all sports grounds should be re-imposed.
This study is subject to a number of limitations. We were unable to measure the effect of exposure on use of alcohol in our study, however there is strong evidence that exposure to such imagery in other media increases alcohol consumption. Calculation of gross and per capital impressions assumed that the measured audience were present and viewing matches for the entire broadcast. We did not code matches from the earlier stages of the tournament, or advertisements within broadcasts, where present. Finally, our coding only allowed for estimation of exposure in the television broadcast and thus our estimates are applicable to the television viewership; in future it would be interesting to code exposure to spectators within the football stadia to gain estimates of the scale of the problem to those attending live sporting events.
Our findings suggest that Iceland, a country with a relatively clear and simple ‘Afengislog’ has demonstrated a positive influence in reducing exposure of minors to alcohol advertising at UEFA Euro 2016 and other countries could learn from this experience in attempt to draft legislation which will avoid such circumvention. Future lawmakers also need to be aware of the arguments being used when alcohol producers are promoting their low or alcohol-free products. These often share the same branding as the producer’s full alcohol product and therefore the non-alcoholic products are providing an alibi. In addition, some alcohol producers are associating their advertising with responsible drinking alibi messages which contain alcohol product trademarks. For example, in an open letter to Jean Todt (FIA president) from Mariann Skar, Secretary General in the European Alcohol Policy Alliance, and supported by 40 public health and civil society organisations from around the world, Heineken’s 5-year F1 sponsorship is heavily criticised for, “linking a popular motor sport to a significant cause of avoidable physical, mental and social harm and more specifically one of the major killers on our roads, drink driving” . This global campaign incorporates Heineken’s characteristic red star and green branding on billboards which also have a prominent “When You Drive, Never Drink” message (http://www.eurocare.org/media_centre/press_releases/formula_1_puts_heineken_in_the_driving_seat). Indeed Heineken has said that it will use F1 to promote this campaign, supported by ambassador Sir Jackie Stewart . In both situations potential consumers, and particularly impressionable youth, might well not be sufficiently sophisticated to tell the difference. Future legislation needs to recognise this to enable minors to be protected.