How Heineken is revising its sponsorship strategy with F1 deal

As Heineken partners up with Formula One in a bid to reach 250 million more consumers, the brand’s director of global Heineken sponsorships Hans Erik Tuijt explains why the brand is eager not to compete with local beer brands.

The Formula One (F1) partnership, which comes into effect in 2017, will include campaigns based around Heineken’s global ‘Open your World’ and ‘If You Drive, Never Drink’ initiatives. Activations will include F1 circuit branding, TV ads, digital and social activity, live fan experiences and events, and point-of-sale activations. David Coulthard and Sir Jackie Stewart will be ambassadors for the respective campaigns.

The aim of the partnership is to grow Heineken’s market share on a global scale, which according to figures supplied by the brand stands at between 1.5% and 2%.  While Heineken’s approach has traditionally been based around getting Heineken drinkers to purchase the beer more frequently, Tuijt has now revised its strategy.

“People are repertoire drinkers these days. However, this repertoire is growing, so we had to rethink our strategy and see how we could introduce more people to the Heineken franchise,” he told Marketing Week.

“The good thing these days about data is you can quite accurately have an idea of how you can reach people through a sponsorship. And Formula One reaches 250 million consumers that we don’t talk to through the activities we have today.”

Tuijt also believes this partnership is an important part of the brand’s strategy as it does not want to “compete and make [itself] a local beer brand” – something that might seem contradictory in the face of the public’s growing appetite for local craft beers.

“We sponsor a lot of local initiatives as well, but the ones that really cut through are our global sponsorships. It reaches so many more people, which is something that local beer brands can’t. If you compare the return on investment from local versus global [partnerships], global is more effective,” he said.

“We want to outperform the cost of local sponsorship. We aim to have 60% of Formula One fans that drink beer know about our sponsorship in three years. I think it’s achievable.”

Hans Erik Tuijt, director of global sponsorships, Heineken

Learning lessons

Heineken already sponsors other major sporting events including the Rugby World Cup and the Champion’s League. Tuijt admitted those have proved to be challenging for the brand but have led to it playing a “much sharper role”.

“With the Champion’s League, it took us a few years to get it right. We will shortly be revealing our new campaign for the Champion’s League, and we keep finding out what the key issues are for consumers, how to engage them and how they change in behaviour. So we have improved our strategy. If you see the role Heineken plays now, it’s much sharper,” he explained.

Ignoring research

The brand will also be using the Formula One partnership to expand its responsible drinking ‘If You Drive, Never Drink’ platform. It currently invests 10% of its global media spend in responsible consumption campaigns, and previous campaigns such as ‘Moderate Drinkers Wanted’ have attracted some criticism for encouraging women to curb men’s drinking.

For the F1 partnership, the beer brand will use signs previously showcased at the Canadian Grand Prix, showing a Heineken bottle with a red cross in the shape of a steering wheel placed on top. Even though research showed that it could potentially tell consumers that they should not be drinking Heineken, Tuijt wanted to include the brand in the messaging.

“We want to be bold. I believe we should include a brand in that message and not a corporate one, because people have a relationship with the brand but not necessarily the company. And let’s be clear – the research tells us that we should be not doing this. But I have the personal belief we should, to make a statement,” he commented.

“People might see it and say: don’t drink Heineken. While of course I’m worried [about that], the alternative of people drinking and driving is even worse. This will be a learning journey as to what the best way is to communicate this message to people and change their behaviour as well.”

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