, September 19, 2016

If Heineken Did Champagne…

Driving Positive Change

Sponsoring F1 gives brands huge exposure in Europe, Latin America and Asia combined with important (and relatively unique) access to growth markets in the developing world. The associations with speed, glamour and excitement are tempting for any global company and for FMCG brands these associations can be promoted through branding around the race tracks, TV commercials, social media, live fan experiences and events, dedicated PR initiatives and packaging and point-of-sale activity.

In the twenty first century, it’s important for brands associated with alcohol to promote responsible drinking. In June, when Heineken announced their sponsorship of Formula One it was easy to see how the brand could be exposed to negative publicity linking drinking and driving way too fast. And there was, inevitably, an immediate call for legislation around alcohol and sports sponsorship to be reviewed.

Heineken, naturally spotted the risks. They already have sport sponsorship links with the UEFA Champions League and the Rugby World Cup and know their way around the potential negative issues. Right from the start, they avoided the trap of branding on the cars, clearly linked the sponsorship to responsible drinking and announced the “If You Drive, Never Drink” campaign.

For the Italian Grand Prix earlier this month, Heineken launched the sponsorship with the first video/TV commercial promoting the If You Drive, Never Drink campaign. As with most things Heineken do, it’s highly creative, beautifully worked and funny too. You cannot fault the marketing team for trying to get this right. However, it may take a while for a sport so closely associated with champagne on the podium to lose the link with alcohol, particularly with Heineken as a lead sponsor. At the same time, the champagne doesn’t come out until the end of the race and nobody ever drinks it, so that’s OK. If Heineken did champagne, it would only be used as a very expensive water pistol!


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