Tag Archives: Greggs

Greggs misadventure, or genius advertising?

There are times when the only response to a news story is a dumbfounded : “What were they thinking?!” That was my response to the news that Greggs, the high street bakery and convenience food chain, had this week released promotional material for their branded advent calendar with a picture of a sausage roll replacing Jesus in the manger. I know that you may find this hard to believe too – so I’ve included the marketing image here.


Aside from the obvious crassness of placing a pork-based food product at the scene of a Jewish birth (thus achieving the double-whammy of offending both Jews and Christians), it’s not even a particularly attractive image. (Let’s be honest, Greggs sausage rolls are ok, but they’re not a patch on the chicken bakes!)

Wholly predictably, the campaign launch prompted outrage amongst Christian groups. An Evangelical Alliance spokesperson accused the company of deliberately courting controversy, generating “processed outrage to sell processed food”; while the Chief Executive of the Freedom Association called for a boycott of Greggs products “to protest against its sick anti-Christian advent calendar”. (As an aside, is it just me who sees the irony in a representative of an organization of the Freedom Association calling for a boycott of anything? Oxymoronic much?)

A spokesperson for Greggs issued a standard response in cases of this type : “”We’re really sorry to have caused any offence, this was never our intention”. In truth, though, it’s hard to see how anybody with even half a brain cell could have thought that substituting the baby Jesus with a sausage roll was eve going to be anything but offensive to those who believe that this was a divine event. How did the marketing strategy meeting go? “Um – guys. Are we sure about this whole sausage roll instead of Jesus thing?” “Yeah, man – why not? It can’t be offensive. Look if you write ‘Lord Jesus’ backwards – Susejd rol – why, it almost even spells sausage roll.” “Oh hey – that’s so cool – no-one’s going to mind about it now.”

Some Christians sought to see the funny side of the whole thing, arguing that religions and their adherents need to be able to laugh at themselves as part of a mature understanding of their place in the world. Writing in a letter to the Guardian, the Very Rev Richard Giles stated that : “When a faith tradition loses the capacity to laugh at itself, it is on the slippery slope to the hardline fundamentalism which brooks no comment or criticism.”

Others turned their ire on the Christian organisations whose outrage had served to propel the story into the mainstream media in the first place. One such piece was written by Peter Ormerod. In a really well argued piece he states that “anyone who claims to take Jesus seriously should really be finding literally hundreds of other things to get outraged about instead. There’s child poverty; there’s the rise in food bank use; there’s environmental degradation; there’s the surge in hate crime; there’s profound inequality; there’s warmongering; there’s slavery”. And his conclusion is surely the only sensible one : “At the heart of Christianity is a critique of religion itself. It tells us that God is not who, what or where any of us ever believed God to be. We’ve long buried this radicalism under layer after layer of cloying sentimentality and deadening pomposity, to the point that it’s taken a sausage roll to remind us of its significance. And for that, if not for the steak bakes, thanks be to Greggs.” I have to say, I can’t agree with him about the steak bakes, but for the rest, I’d suggest he’s spot on.

So where does that leave Greggs? I somewhat spitefully suggested earlier that their marketing team may not have been the sharpest tools in the box when coming up with this campaign. But if you stop and think about it for a moment, the coverage that they’ve achieved has been astonishing. I can only assume that as the story was picked up by the BBC, the Daily Mail, the Sun, the Independent, and a whole host of other media outlets, so sales of sausage rolls, pasties and cream-filled Belgian buns were sky-rocketing.

belgian bun

A cream-filled Greggs Belgian Bun can’t be beaten!

In the final analysis, then, this particular manufactured outrage wasn’t so much mis-advent-ure as genius marketing.



(With thanks to J. for the inspiration for today’s post)

Baggies, Magpies and the Poshest Greggs in the World…

I must have been a very good boy this year because I got to go to two football matches over the Christmas period! I’ve already written about my visit to Haverfordwest County FC on Boxing Day. If that was cake and ale football, then the visit to The Hawthorns and West Bromwich Albion on 28th December was much more like champagne and caviar. And that must be the first time that West Bromwich Albion, champagne and caviar have all featured in the same sentence.


The slightly faded club badge on the outside of The Hawthorns

Things returned more or less to normal for this trip. It was Dan and me. I drove. And the traffic around Newport on the way to the Midlands was awful. However, there were a couple of striking differences too. Dan – newly financially independent now that he’s working full time – had bought the tickets. And – following earlier Bank Holiday ground hops to Shrewsbury, Oxford, Wolves and Yeovil – this was our first sojourn to a Premiership match.

Newport notwithstanding (when will somebody finally approve the start of work on the new M4 to the south of the city?) the trip to West Bromwich was uneventful. The club’s website had helpfully stated that parking was plentiful and reasonably priced all around The Hawthorns, and that proved to be the case. We left Cardiff at 11.40am and parked within 10 minutes walk of the ground (£5) at 1.20pm. Thankfully, this was a dry day, and the temperature was a balmy 13 degrees C as we strolled towards the ground.


Probably the poshest Greggs in the World – and the focal point of the WBA Fan Zone

We stopped off first in the WBA fan zone just outside the stadium, drawn mainly (to be honest) by the sight of the poshest-looking Greggs that we have ever seen! Eschewing the delights of that establishment’s chicken pasties, we instead plumped for an excellent burger from one of the outlets within the Fan Zone before leaving for a walk around the stadium.


Tony ‘Bomber’ Brown – WBA legend

It’s fair to say that The Hawthorns is not the most picturesque ground in the world. There is little to whet the appetite of the amateur photographer in the stadium’s external architecture. Just outside what passes for the main entrance to the ground, there is a statue of Tony ‘Bomber’ Brown. Brown is a WBA legend having made over 550 senior appearances for the Baggies, scoring over 200 goals along the way. Another WBA hero was remembered more poignantly on the day that we were there. Don Howe had passed away on 23rd December. Howe played over 340 games for the Baggies between 1952 and 1964, before returning to manage the side between 1971 and 1975. There was a heartfelt minute’s applause to mark his passing before the kick-off, which was marked in equal measure by WBA and Newcastle fans.


Players and fans joined in a minutes’ applause in memory of Don Howe before kick off

Having made our way into the ground, we were amazed to find that our seats were almost within touching distance of the playing surface. Normally, I like to watch the game from a slightly more elevated position, affording a degree of perspective over the whole match. However, it’s only when you’re down at pitch level that you get a true appreciation of the the speed of the game and the physical attributes of the players. Victor Anichebe and Jonas Olsson both started this game for WBA and they were by some margin the most intimidating players on the pitch. Anichebe bullied the Newcastle defence all afternoon, and Baggies boss Tony Pulis will be hoping that the injury that he picked up in the final few minutes is not as serious as it looked at the time.


Anichebe (10) and Olsson (on stilts!) making life difficult for the Newcastle defence at a 1st half corner

The game itself was actually very entertaining. The Albion won it with the only goal coming from the head of Darren Fletcher with 14 minutes remaining. It was no more than the Baggies deserved, although Newcastle will be disappointed that a determined (not to say occasionally desperate) rearguard action did not bring them a  share of the points on the day. Stand-out players on the day were Anichebe, Sessegnon and Fletcher for the Baggies; and Coloccini for the Magpies.


The mandatory kick-off pic – Fletcher was excellent for WBA

Mike Jones and his refereeing team had a generally good day, although there was a blatant pull back on Wijnaldum by Jonny Evans at the mid-point of the second half that should have resulted in a penalty kick to Newcastle and a red card for the WBA centre back. With the benefit of the replays on Match of the Day later in the evening, it seems likely that Jones was unsighted at the critical moment, but it was certainly a let-off for the Baggies. Unusually, Jones didn’t produce a card throughout the entire game; which is in part, testament to the spirit in which both teams approached the match.

In the car on the way home, the match summariser from Radio 5 Live suggested that Newcastle had shown enough in the game to suggest that they would avoid relegation this season, despite their precarious current position in the table. I’m not sure that I’d agree with that assessment, given their lack of any sustained attacking threat on this occasion. But I hope they do survive if only as a reward for the Geordie fans who filled the away seats at The Hawthorns and supported their team noisily and consistently throughout the entire 90 minutes.


Newcastle players going through their pre-match warm-up routines – orange and fuschia bibs brightening a dull afternoon!


The pre-match ‘Respect’ handshakes – that’s Sessegnon behind Olsson, not one of the mascots!