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Heineken reveals secret global to local marketing trial behind Champions League content


By Seb Joseph, News editor

February 26, 2015 | 5 min read

Heineken pulls the curtain on its secretive social media war room for the Champions League to reveal how it is actually a test for how it can distil global creative locally to 120 different markets.


While football fans were lamenting the dire quality of English football last night (25 February) following Arsenal's shock defeat to French underdogs Monaco, Heineken marketers were busy trying to avoid a similar slip up in the digital arena. Yesterday’s matches capped off the second week of the brewer’s latest activation – Champion the Match – that sees it try and take the universal game to more people than ever before.

Rather than just rely on the puling power of football legends such as Ruud Guullit and Hernan Crespo, celebrities are being roped in to give the content deeper cut through across a longer activation period. Whereas last year's effort prioritised those peak engagement periods during the 90 minutes of a match, this time Heineken is looking to own pre-match and after-match buzz too.

“Champions League banter on Twitter is not just about the match, but happens throughout the entire evening,” says Sandra Soskic, co-chief executive at DDB & Tribal Worldwide Amsterdam – one of the agencies stationed at Heineken’s digital command centre. We have managed to leverage this to tell the various parts of the story (build-up, event, post event) which has had a very positive impact on our overall results.”

Word of mouth was not solely responsible for the uplift in buzz and Heineken had to spend heavily on paid ads on Facebook to get the critical mass needed to make the campaign worthwhile. Targeting on Twitter isn’t as extensive yet as Facebook so the brand and its agencies - DDB & Tribal Worldwide Amsterdam, Starcom Mediavest Group and Edelman - had to find some workarounds.

Three shortcuts were devised; one was working with Twitter to push promote posts to people with an interest in football, specifically Champions League, on the social network. Another was to use extensive conversation tracking to tap into relevant conversations going on around the match and use the appropriate match hashtags, while also partnering with influential football twitter users to spread the content.

It is a tried and tested approach to harnessing organic and paid channels, one Heineken has spent the last three years honing through the campaign’s predecessor, “Share the Sofa”. The brewer first invited fans to share the sofa in the virtual space in 2013 and revived it a year later, each time it served as a test bed for ways to insert the brand into people’s conversations. Heineken has made no secret of its lofty ambition to become the only beer associated with the Champions League and has repeatedly spoken about using social media to generate loyalty and not just brand awareness off the back of its learnings.

Soskic said the strategy builds on the intrinsic link between mobile and social that Heineken has been trying to mine in recent years, not only through its Champions League forays but its wider marketing too. “Social equals mobile,” she added. And mobile is a strategic operating principle rather than a device or platform. The ability to orchestrate customer engagement in real time and across every touch point for the mutual benefit of both consumer and brand is the ultimate goal.”

Her statement alludes to one of the driving forces behind Heineken’s latest brand push. Not content to rest on the laurels that earned it the marketer of the year Cannes Lions award, the brewer is using the “Champion the Match” campaign to draft a blueprint for how to better balance the way global and local markets work together in activating a global platform across 120 local markets.

Heineken joins the growing throng of advertisers hunting for innovative ways to localise global ideas. Part born from pressure to stretch the marketing pound and part due to increased competitions on the worldwide stage, marketers are being required to prove they can deliver more coordinated plans to justify budgets. Sports marekting research group IMR esitamtes the brewer's current sponsroship of the Champions League costs more than $70m per year.

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