Heineken taps MP3

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Heineken usa is partnering with MP3.com for its largest interactive push, with a budget that could approach $5 million-a paltry sum in the celluloid world, but a princely amount online.

The Dutch import will sponsor more than 50 concerts with alternative musicians, a top focus of MP3.com, which itself is trying to boost market share. Although the site recently signed deals with all the major record labels, it has had legal battles about copyright infringement-much like those of rival Napster-and now is working to build a brand since relaunching in December. To support the concert series, which begins in mid-June, Heineken and MP3.com will use banner ads on the music provider, an e-mail campaign alerting MP3.com's 15 million subscribers to concert dates; and a print and radio campaign. A mini-Heineken Web page (www.mp3.com/heineken) will run through the end of the year.

The effort comes as Heineken seeks to regain its standing as America's No. 1 imported beer, a mantle Corona Extra soundly claimed in 1998. The tie-in with MP3.com focuses on the site's 21- to 34-year-old audience, the primary beer-drinking constituent.

Print ads break June 1, with radio following June 16. The work, by Interpublic Group of Cos.' Lowe Lintas & Partners, New York, includes one print ad that spins Heineken's "It's all about the beer" tag into "It's all about the music." National magazines such as Spin and local publications will carry the work, which promotes the 54 concerts in 46 cities. The shows start June 17 in Seattle and end Aug. 18 in Miami, all with homegrown talent. This is Heineken's first link to emerging artists; it has sponsored music festivals and sensations such as Ricky Martin.

Ric Dube, music Internet analyst for Webnoize, a Stoneham, Mass.-based music Internet consultancy, said the agreement provides MP3 with ad revenue and allows Heineken to tap directly into those key consumers.

Heineken's brand manager, Scott Hunter-Smith, said this is the brew's largest online endeavor and that it would receive about 10% of its 2001 marketing budget. While he did not specify the amount of this year's budget, the U.S. unit of Heineken NV last year laid out $48 million in measured media, compared with $34 million in 1999, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. That compares with Corona Extra, marketed domestically by Gambrinus Co. and Barton Beers Ltd., which received $35 million in 2000 and $34 million one year earlier, according to CMR.

"A lot of consumers spend a lot of time online, and almost every industry is looking at the best way to leverage that. That's where the consumer is-especially the younger consumer," Mr. Hunter-Smith said. "It's basically another way to communicate. ... You have to continue to make your brand relevant to your consumer."

Steve Sheiner, exec VP of sales and marketing at MP3.com, said this is his site's first big branding initiative. "Heineken represents our first foray into the packaged-goods market. A lot of our advertising has involved Internet companies or software companies," he said.

The three-year-old company last year had $82 million in revenue, but it had to pay $130 million to the five major record labels to settle copyright infringement suits. In addition to Heineken other major MP3 advertisers include cosmetics shopping site Sephora.com, Microsoft Corp., and American Honda Motor Co. Last week, MP3 stock was trading at $2.75, 88% off its 52-week high of $22.50.

Heineken, the country's No. 2 import but 12th-most-popular brew, last year sold a record 4 million barrels, compared with 3.5 million in 1999 and 3.2 million in 1998, according to Beer Marketer's Insights.

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