Gambrinus seems to have picked the ball right where the Budweiser Superbowl ad left it, and ran with it, full speed, head down; subtlety be fucked. What they've done with Pivovar Patron is, in a way, amazing (and quite insane).
For those out of the loop, this is how the story goes:
A month or so ago, the beers from a new microbrewery, Pivovar Patron, a jedenáctka and a desítka, started to show up at pubs and some events, already with branded glasses, coasters and other marketing trinkets pretty well put together, according to reports. The brewery claimed to be from Čepice, a small village in South-West Bohemia. But it seemed that the facilities weren't ready yet and Richard Chodora at Pivni.info wondered where the beer was actually brewed.
So far, nothing strange. Microbreweries that claim to be from a specific place that has no brewery, at least not yet, aren't new; Pivovar Malešov is a good example, and there's one, Pivo Starosta, that's from a town that doesn't even exist!
Pivovar Patron never existed, either. It was Gambrinus all along, with a different label. This wasn't revealed by a shrewd investigative reporter with privileged access to anonymous sources, but by the company itself in its own webpage.
TL:DR: Pivovar Patron was an elaborated PR stunt by Gambrinus, and very cheeky one at that.
Its goal was to prove that (many) Gambáč haters are speaking out of their asses. Either they haven't drunk the beer for a long time, or they are simply repeating what they consider the cool thing of the day.
It must be said that they were quite successful. No, no, I'm not speaking about the video on the above linked webpage. That's bullshit; staged and scripted like the Coke Zero ad or your average reality show. But it can still be seen as a dramatisation of real events, because the beer (at least the unfiltered 11º) was pretty well received, getting good comments in more than one beer page.
But what's Prazdroj's endgame with this campaign?
Pissing off snobs and pseudo-connoisseurs may be fun (actually, it is fun), but it can hardly be considered a sensible long-term marketing strategy. Nobody likes being called a poser and a snob, even if they are; especially if they are so, and it's not likely that those people will start happily drinking the brand that has taken them for fools. Nor I believe this is solely for the free media coverage they will get thanks to this.
Like the Budweiser ad I mention above, I believe this campaign is actually directed mostly at the loyal Gambrinus drinker. It reassures them that the beer they like is good and that the haters don't really know what they're are talking about (which, to some extent, is true).
There's more to it than that, though.
I've seen some comments saying that Plzeňský Prazdroj must be desperate to resort to a stunt like this. I give them more credit than that.
It's true that the last 7-8 years haven't been very good for the biggest Czech brewing company. Output fell from more than 10 million hl/year to less than 8, in a matter of a couple of years. But I'm pretty sure that they've had come to terms with that, and with the fact that they'll never get back to pre-crisis figures; it's simply not going to happen, Czech will never go back to drinking 160l/year per capita, and no export will be able to compensate for that.
What I believe we're witnessing is a company coming to terms with an already impossible to ignore image problem their best selling brand has (which, by the way, is nothing new), and taking the bull by the horns in a very rough, no-nonsense, controversial manner. Time will tell whether it'll pay off or massively backfire.
PS: Getting to the ethics of all this. There are reasons why some people don't want to drink Gambrinus that have little, if anything to do with the beer itself, which are very legitimate, and those people've been mislead into buying something they thought was from a small, independent company. I understand why they're pissed off. I wonder how legal that is.