Beer of the People or Worst Brew in the World? How the UK and South Korea Reacted to Gordon Ramsay’s Unlikely Brand Endorsement
Author: Mayuko Homma
Thanks to his colourful language on TV shows such as Hell’s Kitchen and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, UK based multi-Michelin Starred restaurateur Gordon Ramsay has made a name for himself on both sides of the Atlantic. In an attempt to boost his stardom in Asia, he recently accepted the role as the brand ambassador for South Korean beer Cass and starred in its TV ad. But, as is so often the case with celebrity brand endorsements, it didn’t quite go to plan. Any brew enthusiasts out there will understand the painfully obvious reason behind this. Cass is notoriously bland, or, as a review on ratebeer.com eloquently put it, it’s a beer “perfect for mineral water drinkers.”
The campaign’s impact in the UK
Ramsay’s Cass campaign was picked up by the British press, most noticeably The Guardian. The newspaper’s article, which described South Korean beer as being known for “strong on fizz but lacking in the flavour department” and questioned Ramsay’s judgement, has received over 1,700 shares to date. Prior to the story being published, social media conversations around Cass averaged at less than one post a day in the UK. Once the story had hit the headlines, that figure grew by more than 8,000
The coverage and conversations were largely negative in tone with commenters poking fun of the celebrity chef for sponsoring “the worst beer in the world”:
They should’ve got Bear Grylls. He’s use to drinking piss. – Gordon Ramsay under fire over Korean TV advert https://t.co/emm51Js8he –
— Ken Macfarlane (@KenMacf) November 20, 2017
However, some jumped to Ramsay’s defence by arguing that in a competition of bad tasting beer, Cass wouldn’t be the winner:
— Laurence Mallows (@LaurenceMallows) November 20, 2017
Others pointed out that the campaign left a lot to be desired:
Don’t waste money on expensive marketing if the product doesn’t back it up: Gordon Ramsay under fire for Korean beer ad https://t.co/uflthYnXSW
— Helz (@RCMtalks) November 20, 2017
There is no denying the Ramsay-Cass partnership created a buzz in the UK, and, although the beer may not have become known for its fantastic taste, it certainly raised its profile among British drinkers.
The campaign’s impact in South Korea
While less extreme, the campaign made a big impact in South Korea too. Prior to its launch, mentions of Cass on social media averaged at 63 a day. Once the first commercial aired on September 15th, volumes skyrocketed with a growth of over 3,200%.
So how did South Koreans react to Cass’ new commercial? On the whole, people were quick to jump on the bandwagon, calling out the poor taste of Korean beer in general and Cass in particular.
맥주는 물론 미각에 대해서는 재능따위 1도 없지만 고든 램지 선생의 카스 광고 사건을 보고 있으면…. 한국 맥주는 “맛없다”보다는 “다 똑같다”가 더 큰 문제 같다.
— 비더슈탄트 (Widerstand) (@widerstand365) September 15, 2017
“Although I don’t know anything about beer, whenever I see the situation surrounding the commercial with Mr. Gordon Ramsay in it, I think that the label of Korean beer being “all the same” is worse than just being “bad”.”
헐 미친 고든 램지 씨 카스 광고 찍었네????? 게다가 카스보고 맛있ㅅ다고 하고 있어
— Σ}―(롯네)♡→ (@ldk_960518) October 1, 2017
“Holy crap Gordon Ramsay is in the Cass commercial? And he’s saying that it’s good??”
But not everyone agreed. This tweet, which emphasised Korean beer’s suitability as a food accompaniment, has received nearly 5,000 retweets to date.
고든램지 카스 광고 때문에 말이 많던데 ㅋㅋ 나도 처음에 보고 의심했지만, “음식과 잘 어울려”라는 말이 기억에 남는다. 독일에서 맥주양조 공부하고 온 형도 국산 맥주에 대해 저렇게 평가했거든..
— 묘로리 (@myorori_) September 14, 2017
“There’s a lot of talk going on about Gordon Ramsay appearing in the Cass commercial lol. At first I was skeptical as well, but the words, “[it] goes well with food” leaves an impression on my mind. My brother who studied beer in Germany said the same thing about Korean beer.”
Ramsay’s alleged financial struggles were also called into question with commentators speculating about the size of his endorsement deal:
고든램지 한국에 빚졌어,,,? 카스 광고 너무 충격이다 진자 위하요우 뭔대,,,,,
— 미프 : D-342 (@seedgambler) November 19, 2017
“Are you indebted to Korea in some way, Gordon Ramsay? The Cass commercial is so shocking wow”
고든램지 카스 광고 보니 를 보니 자본주의 정말 무섭다.
— 그림 못그리는 뀨 (@gugupercent) September 15, 2017
“Now that I see the Gordon Ramsay Cass commercial, capitalism sure is scary.”
So, what effect did the TV chef’s endorsement of Cass have in the UK? Not only are people more likely to think twice before ordering a Korean beer along with their bibimbap, but the Ramsay brand has also suffered a blow. Although publicly standing by his guns, Gordon Ramsay has probably learnt a lesson about the importance of prior on-the-ground knowledge ahead of his next brand partnership.
Taking everything into account, was it a wise move by Cass to feature Gordon Ramsay in their advertising campaign? I would argue that it was. Sure, it generated plenty of negative conversations but it also created a buzz and put Cass in the spotlight, albeit at Ramsay’s expense,
Now, have I ever tasted Cass myself? Yes, more times than I can count and I agree that Korean beer in general is pretty flavourless. However, unknown to people outside of South Korea, the locals have a simple way to combat this: Mixing it with Soju, a distilled liquor, to make a Seo Maek. In fact, the blandness of Cass makes it ideal as a mixer. Funnily enough, my first question when I heard about the Cass campaign was, “Has Ramsay ever tried a Seo Maek?”. I will probably never know the answer.