How Speight's crossed the world

The bottles have been there for years. Indeed, the chance to drink a cold Speight's on the far side of the planet was too good for this reporter to pass up during a visit to London - and that was in 2003.

Then there are the bottle stores and boutique beer bars, some of which also imported Speight's. And for those fancying a night in, a home-delivered Speight's could find its way to your door after a quick visit to a website.

"Great advertising for a Speight's pub, though," Mr Dennis' message concluded. "Make up an advert as if it's a news story, even though it makes Kiwis in the UK look stupid. Cheers, Speight's!!!".

Speight's, of course, has a slightly different spin on the idea.

Speight's marketing manager Sean O'Donnell, of Auckland, conceded the beer was already in London, but said the company wasn't "actively exporting" to the UK before the Great Beer Delivery. There were only "a few niche distributors importing a small volume", he said.

"There were some outlets selling Speight's . . . [but] there was by no means a large amount of distribution of Speight's. I lived in London for nearly three years and went to the Walkabout about twice for rugby.

"I had Speight's at a mate's house once," he said.

But it remains a different story from the one presented in the marketing campaign.

The novel campaign presented desperate Kiwis in London "missing their Speight's" and awaiting the "salvation" of the Great Beer Delivery.

"A mate would never leave a mate stranded without Speight's but there are so many desperate Kiwis in the UK that a pub by boat is really the only thing for it," one Speight's media release read.

The theme continued just last week, with an advertisement in the Otago Daily Times reminiscing about last year's beer run for "a mate in London who was missing his Speight's".

And certainly Tim Ellingham wasn't alone in wanting some free beer - there were all those emails, right? The ones from hundreds of homesick Kiwis in the UK, pleading for Speight's to deliver some beer to go with their other Kiwi creature comforts, the pineapple lumps, jaffas and buzzy bees.

In April 2007, announcing the beer delivery project, Speight's said simply hundreds of emails had been received "in the past year".

The best of them was Mr Ellingham's, who "issued the call for Speight's in the first place", the company's story went.

Except, really, Speight's did.

The company ran a campaign through UK websites popular with Kiwi ex-pats, encouraging them to email Speight's and explain why they were missing the beer.

Even if, like Tim, they were never that far away from it.

Asked if there had been a competition organised by Speight's, Mr Ellingham told the ODT: "Yes, that's correct. Lots of people wrote in for the competition and confirmed the need for Speight's in London.

"My email was in response to the competition in the UK. I sent through the email in late November 2006 and heard back from Speight's just before Christmas saying they loved my email and would send some beer.

"Then we kept in touch and they got hold of my mate James, sent some more beer, and out of all this came the GBD!"

Asked about this, Mr O'Donnell said the Speight's initiative was "not really a competition" but an advertisement which sought to gauge demand for the pub promotion in London before committing to the Great Beer Delivery.

Emails were sent to Kiwi ex-pats and adverts placed on the tntmagazine.com and UK-oriented New Zealand Herald websites, encouraging them to write in saying why they missed their Speight's, Mr O'Donnell said.

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