Heineken: ‘We want to be the only beer fans associate with the Champions League’

Global sponsorship manager for Heineken Tim Ellerton explains how the brewer is looking to fuse technology and sport to convert brand awareness around the UEFA Champions League into loyalty after becoming the first long-term sponsor to renew its contract.

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Marketing Week (MW): How are you planning to adapt your sponsorship strategy to the growing levels of awareness the brand is experiencing as a result of the event’s global reach?  

Tim Ellerton (TE): The Champions League has become the number one annual sport in the world over the last eight years, watched by a cumulative audience of 4.2 billion viewers. During this time it has become the largest platform for the Heineken brand and awareness has grown to 60 per cent among viewers. We’ve created a credible premium association through our activations around matches and what we’re looking to do now, particularly in our more developed markets, is make the brand part of the weekly planning for when fans are getting ready for games. It’s looking at how we insert the Heineken brand into conversations around matches and get people to view the beer as the only one they associate with the tournament.

MW: What sponsorship channels are you investing in to foster brand loyalty via the matches?

TE: The new contract, which covers over 100 markets, gives us access to exclusive Champions League content which we’ll use to improve existing activations such as the Trophy Tour and our “Share a Sofa” Twitter campaign. [The tournament] is different to how people gather to watch a World Cup or European Championship with around 60 per cent of fans watching games at home. We know from research that a lot of drinkers aren’t making the most of the experience when watching matches at home, so we’re looking at how we get people using social media and their mobile devices to improve the home viewing experience. We’ve used apps to great success in doing this in the past but need to work harder to ensure that when it’s a Tuesday and Wednesday night people are thinking about Heineken more readily as part of their preparation for the event.

MW: Beyond second-screen initiatives, how are you looking to amplify the sponsorship in the on and off-trade?

TE: It’s important we give our markets a number of platforms to push our premium credentials through the tournament. We’re preparing a TV campaign to coincide with the Champions League knock-out stages alongside an off and on-trade promotion where we’re inviting fans to find the other half of tickets for the chance to actually attend a match. In the UK alone, we’re working with 4,000 pubs to support the promotion and are also running competitions in the off-trade for fans to watch the 2014 final at our party in Ibiza or live in Lisbon.

MW: How is your sponsorship strategy developing to capitalise on growth in emerging markets?

TE: The Champions League sponsorship is the largest platform for the beer brand globally. One of the key parts of this is still the media and broadcast element that comes with the sponsorship package. It continues to play a big role for us. In two thirds of our markets the only exposure that Heineken gets is through the tournament. In [the western] part of the world we get a bit lost in the fact that it’s a European tournament at the expense of its profile globally.

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