‘George The Bear’ takes over Piccadilly Circus as Hofmeister’s grown up, sophisticated George is revealed

One of advertising’s most famous, loved and enduring characters is making a comeback as the revamped, relaunched Hofmeister Helles lager is ready to bring back ‘George The Bear’ who helped the brand become one of the top selling beers of the 1980s and early 1990s.

In keeping with the new premium, authentically Bavarian, slow brewed Hofmeister, the new look George is a grown up, classier, sophisticated version of his former ‘geezer’ pork pie wearing hat version, that helped make him a household name in his heyday in the 1980s when millions of beer drinkers took up his call - “for great lager, follow the bear”.

The new premium Bavarian version of Hofmeister is a far cry from the mass produced brand that was actually brewed in the heart of England. It was brought back to life in 2016 by entrepreneurs, Richard Longhurst and Spencer Chambers, who bought the rights to the brand from Heineken and re-created it as an authentic Bavarian-brewed Helles lager made to the German beer purity law that dates back to 1516.

It is now attracting premium drinkers across the UK into the £3.7 billion world beer category*, who either remember it from its past, or are discovering new Hofmeister for the first time and that has gone on to be named Best Lager in the World (2017) in the IWSC drinks competition.

George is Back
Now it’s time to bring back the iconic ‘George The Bear’ in a new major advertising campaign that shows how he too, like Hofmeister, has grown up to become a sophisticated, discerning bear that likes the good things in life.

But he has not lost any of his cheeky personality and anyone travelling through Piccadilly Circus this week can see for themselves as the new look George is taking over the famous Piccadilly Circus advertising board from Monday April 3 with the fresh tagline: “I’m Back. For Classier Beer, Follow the Bear.” 

The new mature George has been created by award winning advertising agency - Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH). Nick Gill, who worked on the original George the Bear campaign, has been part of the team responsible for creating a new mature George for the 2020s.

Gill said: “I was around at the birth of George at Hofmeister at a time when beer advertising was hugely popular, in the days before social media when everyone was talking about it in the office. We live in a very different world now and much of the humour and irreverence about beer advertising that we all loved, has sadly gone. The time has come for a great beer campaign and we’re very excited about it.”

He added: “When we got a call a few months ago to ask if were interested in working on the Hofmeister campaign it was like a voice from the past and it took about three seconds to say ‘yes’. We had no hesitation in bringing back George. He is a loved icon and a fantastic springboard for the new campaign. He’s also ready for a make over because the beer is now much classier and sophisticated.”

Hofmeister co-founder, Spencer Chambers, says he could never have imagined when he and Richard Longhurst took the plunge to bring back the brand that Hofmeister and George the Bear would be centre stage on arguably one of the world’s most iconic and influential advertising sites.

Chambers said: “It’s a big moment for Hofmeister to be able to bring back a grown-up George the Bear. He’s always been the elephant in the room for us and at some point we were always going to have to take that on. The challenge was how we brought him back. Now he’s back we hope he can help us take Hofmeister from being a new, challenger brand to being the UK’s most loved premium world beer.”

He added: “But it is also an important time for the premium beer market as a whole that it once again has a much-loved brand with the sort of personality that made the beer category such an exciting and vibrant place to be in the late 1980s. We want to bring that sense of fun and innovation back and who better than a grown up, classier George the Bear himself.”

Re-inventing George the Bear
Gill said BBH’s challenge was to imagine what "George would look like now and how he would behave”. “He was a product of the 1980s and the ‘laddism’ of the time but values have changed and we could not bring back George like he was. The beer has also changed beyond recognition and is a fantastic product, so surely George had become classier as well. We needed to make the humour a bit more sophisticated and make him look incredible as well.

“To launch any new brand is a challenge, but to have the springboard of an existing brand character gives you a fantastic start. I am feeling supremely confident it’s going to be a really successful campaign. The world needs a smile right now.”

Karen Martin, chief executive of BBH, said: "We're delighted to be working with the team at Hofmeister in their epic pursuit of bringing back George the Bear. It has been pure joy. Classier beer, classier bear.”

The Piccadilly Circus advertising will run from April 3 to Easter Sunday and will see George the Bear take over the complete hoarding for 40 seconds every hour and hopes to attract over 3 million views in total.

It is being supported by a carefully targeted newspaper campaign in the Financial Times and How To Spend It magazine to really show how discerning and business like George The Bear has become - C-suite readers that are the same target audience as the revamped Hofmeister. They can look forward to seeing George like never before as he shows off his new sophisticated look in a high end fashion shoot.

Investment drive
Following the success of a crowdfunding campaign in 2021, that saw the brand raise over £2 million from a target of £600k, Hofmeister is also this week going live with its second Seedrs campaign as it looks to raise money to help drive sales, widen distribution and be able to promote its beers with George the Bear and wider campaign marketing activity.

The impact the new Hofmeister has had on the beer market has already seen it attract investment from senior beer and hospitality leaders who have become part of its senior management team, including top executives from Ei Group, Greene King and Camden Town Brewery.

Its premium strategy has seen it achieve over 500% increase in revenues and sales in the last two years as it continues to target the most aspirational and premium venues in the country.

It believes it is particularly well placed to take advantage of the huge growth and interest in the world beer category that on-trade business analysts, CGA by Nielsen IQ, say grew a spectacular 84.2% MAT for year end 2021 from £2.06 billion to £3.7 billion at the end of 2022.

Independent research commissioned by Hofmeister shows it is the fourth most recognised brand by UK consumers in the premium world lager category**, despite only being back in the UK market since 2017.

They now have the chance to follow a new, grown up George the Bear and enjoy a quality, authentic Bavarian-slow brewed Hofmeister Helles lager. 

* CGA OPM – On Premise Measurement Service MAT P13 2022 (period end December 31, 2022.

** Research carried out by Yonder, 13th-15th November 2021