Danish brewer Carlsberg is dreaming of England glory as the official sponsor of this year's Euro 2000 football championships. Chris Brook-Carter teamed up with the brewer and some selected hacks for an afternoon of penalties and pints.

As a motley crew of trade press strapped on football boots (many of which hadn't seen the light of day since England last won a penalty shoot out) to be put through their paces by Peter Shilton and Phil Neale at Fulham football ground, Carlsberg, the Danish brewer, officially launched its sponsorship of Euro 2000, last Friday.

Expectations for success from this marketing push are high among the Carlsberg camp. Unlike the two press teams that hacked and coughed their way through the game, the Carlsberg marketing team is well experienced in these fields, with two previous European championships under its belt already.

After the success of Euro '96 when the lager became the leading brand in the UK for the period of the championship and overall gained the No3 position in the sector, which it has not relinquished since, the sponsorship has been ambitiously extended.

But as all England fans will tell you, the start of any major campaign also brings with it an air of uncertainty these days. And the penalty shoot-out that hangs over Carlsberg's head is an early exit for the England team.

The official line at the moment is, given the international exposure of the tournament, the England performance should be only a minor concern for the Carlsberg marketing team. "The sponsorship itself goes across the world including Asia," said Tony Vaughn the brand director. "The success of the last couple of weeks depend on England getting through but promotion is for the whole tournament."

However as the press struggled to regain the feeling in our legs in the bar after the knock about, the quandary that an early England exit presents became more apparent. "England holds the key," said one source within the company. Despite what you might think, Carlsberg said that the on-trade sales of its lager in Euro '96 actually fell, as people chose to stay at home with a six-pack of beer and watch the games there. It is the off-trade that offers the most chance for success then, but can Carlsberg expect anything near the carnival atmosphere that followed Euro '96, if England go out in the pool round?

Of course the campaign is far from all about sales, there is consumer recognition of the brand as well. Apparently 28% of people surveyed now recognise Carlsberg as a sponsor of football, which is a good success rate. One would imagine that Carling, with its hold on the premiership is the one lager brand ahead of the Danish brewer at the moment. But, of course, with all that is happening at Bass at present that grip is loosening. The response to any questions about Premiership sponsorship from Carlsberg was met with a hasty and nervous no comment. Interestingly though one company source did say: "I watched Carling hand over the cup to Manchester United last week and thought, you've done that very well, but you might not be doing it next year."

Chris Brook-Carter