Asda to ramp up Drinkaware partnership

Asda is ramping up its partnership with Drinkaware after a successful day spent educating shoppers on how to enjoy a healthy relationship with alcohol.

Dozens of MPs joined Drinkaware ambassadors in stores across the country in January, handing out thousands of alcohol assessment scratchcards to encourage shoppers to reflect upon their drinking habits. Practical tools including alcohol unit measure cups, calorie wheels and “talking to your kids about alcohol” leaflets were also distributed, and the initiative led to widespread media coverage.

“This has just been a really positive experience, it has had such good support, so we want to do it again next year, and we want to improve it,” said Chris Lowe, Asda’s senior director for corporate affairs. “Asda is very keen to strive to be a responsible retailer of alcohol. We were the first supermarket to ban the sale of super-strength beers and the first to ban very high-strength, low-cost ciders. Being an active partner with Drinkaware is part of that responsibility programme.”

Throughout the year, agency staff from a company called CPM are in Asda stores, dishing out samples of new products to shoppers. Drinkaware trained up 100 of these workers, and rather than handing out new products they spent the day promoting responsible drinking. “They’re in our stores all the time and they’re very used to just going up to people and engaging with them in a friendly way,” says Lowe. “The people in store get to know these people too. They come up and ask, ‘oh, what have you got for us today?’ It was able to be done in a very friendly, accessible way to present the materials.

“They all had to do an e-learning course put on by Drinkaware and the feedback from the CPM colleagues was that this was incredibly useful to give them confidence to do this session on that Friday in January. 

“People were encouraged to do the scratchcard. It’s good to do these in a non-clinical environment, where it’s a bit of fun, it’s very casual. People are probably more honest in an environment such as a supermarket, with a friendly person just giving them a scratchcard to fill in on their own, rather than giving them a clinical session where they are going to have to justify it with a GP, and they might admit to drinking more than they would with a GP. They could take home the unit measurement cup, which is a wonderful thing. The calories wheel also went down very well.”

The initiative ran in the 100 Asda stores with the highest level of BWS sales, and the ambassadors said they had “meaningful engagement” – defined as either filling in a scratchcard or having a detailed discussion – with 6,794 shoppers. Eighty-eight of the workers said they felt that at least some of the people they spoke to would change their habits. It was also a massive hit with politicians across the country, from Sajid Javid and Victoria Atkins to Yvette Cooper and Sharon Hodgson.

Engaging with politicians

“In Castleford we had the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee there, Yvette Cooper, standing proudly with her unit measure,” says Lowe. “I’m sure that the Cooper-Balls household use it every Friday night. It was great. 

“Quite often in public affairs we try to engage with politicians and we do something really good and no one is interested, and sometimes it just really hits the mark, and this was incredible. I’ve only got a team of six and we didn’t really want 34 MPs in store that day, but everybody we wrote to came along.

“Even the MPs we weren’t particularly inviting, but saying, ‘just for reference it’s in your store this Friday,’ quite a few of them popped in to see it. A lot of them then did tweets as well. The MPs we invited, we encouraged to tweet before, so that advertised it. Throughout the country it was extraordinary how many newspapers were happy to do a story about Asda just doing the right thing really, working with Drinkaware in January to help their local people drink a little bit less.”

Asda has been emboldened by its success, and it is now planning to turn it into an ongoing campaign. It employs community champions in its stores, and they spend their time working with charities and community groups in their local areas. Drinkaware will train these community champions so that they can push the responsibility message on an ongoing basis.

“We are going to extend the training to our community colleagues, so it won’t be just a one-day operation – they can use it in their community work where it’s appropriate,” says Lowe. “They can be a good source of information for the store colleagues. In an Asda superstore you have 350 colleagues, so you can reach out to a lot of people doing that. We are going to extend the messages elsewhere. We have a radio station, Asda FM, and we will be doing ad on there. We have a magazine and as well, and it will be on there. The use of tweets was a real eye-opener, there was an average figure of around 8,000 followers for these MPs, so we want to encourage more of that. 

“We are really good at talking to and engaging with our customers, we got some great materials and training from Drinkaware and we got really good support from the political community, so that’s a really good partnership.”

Drinkaware chief executive Elaine Hindal says: “One in five people set themselves a new year’s resolution to lead a healthier lifestyle, which may include cutting back on alcohol, so we hope that our ambassadors have helped them make positive choices that will impact their health, not just in January but throughout 2018 and beyond.

“We are facing into a new alcohol strategy, and this is something we welcome. We want to shift gears in three particular areas. We are really interested in a small number of people who are drinking a lot. All of us in the community who care about alcohol harm are really concerned about older men in particular, but also the women in their lives, who are drinking excessively on a regular basis.

“We need to work with health professionals, we need to engage much more with treatment services, that Drinkaware typically hasn’t in the past, and harness the power of local communities, increasing the sort of work we are doing with Scottish football and Derby County FC. 

“Around the broader population, we aim to reach them through our joint campaign with Public Health England. Digital will be at the forefront of that, but offline ways to engage will remain important for a long time to come. We will expand our work in sport, and evolve Drinkaware at work. 

“There is no doubt that there is a growing movement around moderation and mindful drinking that is really interesting. We need to use those people to make moderate drinking much more socially acceptable.” 

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