How a 12 to 1 return on investment brought Heineken 0.0 back to the Rovers Return
ITV will keep the alcohol-free beer flowing at Coronation Street’s fabled pub, as well as in Emmerdale’s Woolpack. We catch up with Heineken’s media head to hear why it’s extending the product placement deal.
Heineken 0.0 delivery to the Rovers Return / ITV
Heineken 0.0 has extended its product placement deal with UK broadcaster ITV for another 18 months after seeing a strong return on investment and a normalization of alcohol-free beer among soap fans.
In the Spring of 2022, ITV partnered with Heineken to bring draft alcohol-free beer to its soap opera pubs, Coronation Street’s Rovers Return and Emmerdale’s Woolpack. Every night of the week in the UK, either Coronation Street or Emmerdale will be on air making it an always-on product placement deal.
Heineken UK’s head of media Jo Dring is behind the deal and tells The Drum: “11 million people tune in every day and they are invested in these characters’ lives, and for them to see their favorite characters asking for a pint of 0.0 beer makes it permissible for the viewer to think it’s normal and that they can have one as well.”
In the first year of the deal, there were 22 on-screen orders of Heineken 0.0 and eight-and-a-half hours of screen time. With a combined average audience across the two soaps of 11 million, Heineken achieved a media value ROI of 12 to 1, which is impressive when 5 to 1 is considered average and 10 to 1 exceptional.
Dring admits that, a decade ago, the perception of alcohol-free beer was low: “You would have to dust it off from the back fridge and it wouldn’t taste great.” Now though, the alcohol-free market has grown far beyond Dry January. One in three pub visits in the UK is now alcohol-free and 99m pints of alcohol-free beer were served in pubs in 2022 – “immense” statistics, says Dring.
The ITV idea started where all good ideas start, says Dring: “We were having a pint and we said those immortal words, ’Wouldn’t it be great if we could get Heineken 0.0 on the bar at the Rovers?’” The partnership served both interests, she explains. “ITV wants to look after the wellbeing of its viewers and we wanted to grow the category.”
Ofcom rules prohibit alcohol product placement in UK broadcast TV, so the regulator required that the Heineken logo be smaller and the ‘0.0’ be bigger. Dring says the deal was always a “category-building exercise and not purely about Heineken 0.0.”
Surveying viewers towards the end of the partnership, Heineken and ITV found 75% of Corrie viewers and 77% of Emmerdale viewers said drinking non-alcohol beer is becoming more normal. “We want to normalize the category – we want to make it as normal as going in and ordering a pint of Heineken or Birra Moretti.”
The fact the placement is on a draft pump and not on bottles was crucial to Heineken. Dring says that since 90% of beer and cider drank in pubs is from draft, it is the best way to normalize alcohol-free drinking. “For people who don’t want to drink alcohol but still want to be part of a round or drinking something that’s similar looking to their friends, is really important for the category.”
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As part of Ofcom and ITV’s strict guidelines around product placement deals, Dring says there is a “very definite line between the commercial agreement and the scriptwriters,” explaining that Heineken isn’t allowed any impact on the script. However, she says script writers and producers have provided feedback to her about how the non-alcohol option has been beneficial to the show when setting lunchtime pub scenes. She jokes: “There are only so many glasses of orange juice you can serve at lunch.”
Looking to the next 18 months, Dring says the deal will be fairly consistent with the previous year; however, Heineken and ITV will be experimenting with amplifying through social as well as engaging with customers in real life at the Coronation Street Experience.
Dring shares that Heineken is focused on these two soap operas and not looking at any further product placement plays right now. “The reason Corrie and Emmerdale were so important is because they are cultural icons of the UK. I don’t think it would have worked if we put it in a one-off BBC drama. The fact that it is Coronation Street and Emmerdale is what makes it so powerful.”