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Heineken tries to recreate inventive creativity in India

Through the first-ever activation of its partnership with UEFA Champions League in India, brand Heineken is ready to strike…a chord that is, with a young population of beer and football consumers.

, ET Bureau|
Mar 20, 2013, 05.37 AM IST
Through the first-ever activation of its partnership with UEFA Champions League in India, brand Heineken is ready to strike…a chord that is, with a young population of beer and football consumers
Through the first-ever activation of its partnership with UEFA Champions League in India, brand Heineken is ready to strike…a chord that is, with a young population of beer and football consumers
On Dutch brewer Heineken’s official YouTube channel, the brand’s blockbuster campaign titled ‘The Express’ a collaboration with James Bond’s last mission Skyfall, has over 244,879 views accrued over five months. It was part of a larger, fairly expensive campaign called ‘Crack The Case’. Now, consider this beer maker’s latest activation ‘The Candidate’ that truly embodied the spirit of crowdsourcing. It involved unsuspecting recruits lured into a meeting that challenged every fibre of any official training they might have had in the past. Over 1700 people applied. The ones who made the first cut had to jump through bizarre hoops that involved a very touchy first meeting, just a handin-hand walk to the interview room. Then a barrage of questions and those who steered clear of textbook answers went through to the next round. This one involved the recruiter collapsing, an award worthy performance to test the recruit’s medical crisis management skills. Next up: the fire drill. One recruit even joined the fire fighting force to save a man trapped on the roof. The final three candidates were put to a public vote. Guy Luchting, the part-time fireman, won the job eventually, a result announced on the big screen at a Champions League game, only the biggest club football tournament on the planet. Now, apart from getting a coveted berth on the Heineken roster, Luchting will accompany the trophy all the way to the final at Wembley Stadium in May this year. The Candidate has over 3,036,993 views on YouTube, and that’s just in the last three weeks. Something to think about, yes?

When Brand Equity spoke to Heineken’s senior global brand director Cyril Charzat at Cannes Lions in 2012 he said, “You create virals when you take an event and build a surprising story around it, like we did with the UEFA Champions League a few years ago.” That promotion involved a bunch of unsuspecting football fans who were forced by their significant others to attend what they believed would be a classical music concert but who suddenly found themselves watching a Champions League match. Adds Charzat, “There’s no media buy. The execution is not cheap, it’s about 100,000 Euros; but nothing compared to a global campaign. The fame that’s created for the brand via such an inventive twist is great — the difference between a wallpaper and a piece of art. Something that resonates with the young guy, a story they are happy to pass on to friends. That for me is where creativity is great and cheap.”

Furthermore, The Candidate deals with a current concern — jobs. At a time when it’s very tough to get a career break the brand is attempting to encourage young adults to stand out from the crowd by being inventive, resourceful and innovative. According to Paul Smailes, global digital head, Heineken, the key is innovation. “With The Candidate we used an actual scenario – the need to recruit an intern – and gave it a creative treatment. It’s crucial that to make compelling content and achieve cut through that the activity is centred on being creative and innovative,” he says.

It’s exactly that kind of inventive creativity that Heineken is trying to recreate in India, a market where several advertising restrictions are imposed on alcoholic beverage brands, which simply means marketers must find more innovative ways to reach consumers.

So at Wembley, Luchting will share space with another product of Heineken’s reality-advertising. This time the recruit will be from India. However, Heineken Social Reporter is a tad different because it is an entirely local initiative, developed and executed as a follow up to The Candidate, that was created and developed by Publicis Italy. Samar Singh Sheikhawat, senior vice president (marketing), United Breweries (Heineken owns 37.5% in United Breweries) points out this is not a mere replica. The search is for a football fan with the knowledge, the smarts and the technological flair to cover a match live. The search will begin with the profiles that interested fans create on Heineken’s Facebook app, which will be the source of a shortlist. The brand will then engage candidates on a one-to-one basis over two or three more rounds, before the final pick. The winner will report live from Wembley on the big day. So you can’t just love football, you have to know football.

It marks a shift in focus for Heineken which has previously chosen music as the main driving force behind its marketing activations here. Sheikhawat admits to the fact that the following for football has been growing and they have not been part of this growth, but do hope to be in times to come. He says, “We will be activating the UEFA Champions League partnership in India for the first time this year, so we will see how it goes. It is too early to comment further on this.”

Vivek Bhargava, CEO of digital agency iProspect-Communicate 2, believes marketers, especially in the alcoholic beverage space, must create brands through content consumption rather than to create through content interruption. He says, “Although the Social Reporter is not entirely an original concept or unique like The Candidate, it’s a good start, also due to the fact that they are reaching out to people who are active on social media and have a presence.” However, going forward the key will be to go beyond short-lived bursts and instead create content that’s sustainable over a long period of time.

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