Daniela Iebba, global communications director at Heineken, discusses ‘Finally Together’, and why football and live sport marketing is so important to the brand
Heineken and the UEFA EURO tournament go together like beer and sunshine. When the recent abortive European Super League was announced, Heineken won the news cycle with its witty social media post in support of the Euros.
When UEFA EURO 2020 was postponed last year due to Covid-19, a whole lot of creative work was plunged in the ice bucket. While Heineken has been notably pro-active in its marketing over the past 15 months, the absence of these big marquee sporting and music events means the brand missed the close connection with fans that it thrives on. Now that the tournament is back on, and with fans champing for some international sport, Heineken has launched its pre-emptive campaign. It’s one of the first big international sporting events since Covid-19 began and kicks off on June 11 – over a month before the Tokyo Olympics.
‘Finally Together' celebrates the reunion of Heineken and its fans... and the rivalry between fans. Cleverly, the team at Publicis-owned specialist agency Le Pub was able to adapt and tweak the ideas they’d conceived last year in order to make them more relevant and timely. LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with Daniela Iebba, global communications director at Heineken.
LBB> This year’s Euros are going to be possibly even more of a focal point for football fans than they normally are. It’s a massive and respected tournament, but this year it has the potential to be a real release and moment of joy for people who have been cooped up for a year! How has that informed your approach this year?
Daniela> I think it’s incredibly important to recognise that, whilst football has continued during the pandemic, fans have not been able to experience the joy of live football, or watching it alongside their friends, families and even rivals. We appreciate that many countries still have restrictions, however it is the excitement of this beautiful reunion between fans and the sport that has informed our creative for UEFA EURO 2020. ‘Enjoy the Rivalry’ celebrates this long-awaited reunion through a different, more playful lens: the rivalries in sport and the positive energy they bring to fans’ relationship with sport and each other.
LBB> Is this campaign a tweaked version of what you were planning to run in 2020, or did you end up making something completely new for the postponed EURO tournament? And if the former, what did you adapt and why?
Daniela> The campaign we had in mind for UEFA EURO 2020 was developed before the pandemic, so indeed we had to evolve it. The insight of the campaign exists regardless of the circumstances, the intention was to celebrate the fans, but the current situation gave us an opportunity to become more topical and relevant, capturing the sentiment of fans who can’t wait to come together again to enjoy such a big international tournament, but of course with the Heineken twist. ‘Enjoy the Rivalry’ brings to life the fact that football isn’t half as fun without your rivals and encourages fans to watch the action with their rivals and of course always supporting responsibly. We have had to keep in mind the current restrictions and changing landscape to ensure we adhere to different market regulations.
LBB> What was the brief that you shared with Le Pub?
Daniela> The brief for this campaign was to develop a story that reminds people of the joy in being a football fan and encapsulates the growing anticipation of the tournament through friendly rivalry. We felt like this space was a rich area for Heineken to play in given the witty tone of voice the brand is famous for. The challenge was to really capture how we can connect the 24 teams with their unique cultures and rivalries in a playful way that would make fans around the world relate to and begin to rouse a sense of excitement in what is set to be an amazing global moment – where we can finally come together again and enjoy the rivalries of world-class international football.
LBB> The hero film plays into the joy of rivalry – I think we’ve had a lot of quite sickly ‘we’re all in this together’ messaging during covid so this feels quite different. What was your research telling you about what sort of sentiments people were ready for?
Daniela> We know there is excitement from fans for the return of live sport, a return to stadiums, bars, and the opportunity to see friends. This tournament may also mark a time of rediscovered socialising and the joys and fun that come with that and we wanted to capture the energy of this. We also know that friendly rivalry is a core part of UEFA EURO 2020 tournament. We wanted to demonstrate how even being reunited with rival fans is a huge factor in our enjoyment of football.
LBB> Love the European flags on the packaging – how did that come about?
Daniela> Sporting events such as UEFA Euro 2020 present a great opportunity for Heineken to help create special memories for the fans. Wherever we can, we want to allow these big occasions to be supplemented with little mementos that, in the future, fans can look back on and cherish.
LBB> What impact will returning fans have for the sport and sponsors like Heineken?
Daniela> As a spectacle, there is no denying that the sporting experience is amplified by the presence of fans, at all levels. As the campaign demonstrates, we can’t wait to finally be together to be rivals again. The return of fans will no doubt motivate the players and be the catalyst for some inspired performances this summer. As sponsors, our job is to further elevate the experience for those fans, and their return represents a chance to amplify our fan engagement strategy beyond virtual and digital platforms, and this will hopefully contribute to an increased brand affinity for our consumers.
LBB> Enjoy the Rivalry will also play out experientially at football villages and fan zones in major cities – what sort of considerations are you building into those OOH/experiential aspects with regards to Covid safety?
Daniela> Safety is of paramount importance to us, and Heineken remains fully supportive of all measures taken by UEFA and the relevant local authorities to ensure fan safety. Part of our planning does involve making sure we deliver a compelling experience for fans, regardless of whether they are enjoying the action from home or in the stadiums.
Heineken will continue to run its ‘Socialise Responsibly’ messaging throughout the tournament with '#SupportResponsibly', to encourage people to enjoy rivalries responsibly whilst adhering to local Covid protocols in tandem with ‘Enjoy Heineken Responsibly’ to ensure fans are consuming alcohol in moderation.
LBB> More generally, how has the absence of big live sports and entertainment events made you rethink their strategic importance for the brand?
Daniela> We have always been aware that live sporting and entertainment events are a key part of the fan experience and part of Heineken’s DNA. Heineken is a social brand at its core, and nothing compares to being able to engage with our fans physically, to share an ice-cold Heineken and provide them world class experiences. We hope that we can look forward to a summer with more events for our fans!