Beer Marketer Expands Branded Entertainment Campaign

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LOS ANGELES -- Following its earlier product integration successes in feature films like Austin Powers and Swordfish, Heineken USA has bought into two cable TV club-based reality shows.
Included in the Heineken-sponsored episodes of 'American Casino' was a gigantic ice sculpture shaped and colored like a Heineken bottle.

Both shows involve the heavy use of music, complementing Heineken's growing strategic emphasis on music as a marketing platform.

Spike TV's 'The Club'

An ongoing presence in The Club, which premieres next week on Spike TV, puts the brand in the middle of the action as a young Las Vegas nightspot called Ice tries to stay afloat. Heineken appears everywhere from the opening montage of the 10-episode series to a sponsored DJ contest to the logo-laden VIP room.

A two-episode arc of The Discovery Channel's American Casino also had a significant Heineken presence with a sponsored LL Cool J concert at the show's backdrop, the Green Valley Ranch resort in Vegas. The shows aired recently, with repeats upcoming, and featured giant Heineken ice sculptures as decorations and outdoor waterfalls bathed in Heineken green light.

Seeks hipper image

The ties to entertainment, aimed at projecting a hipper image, have helped the marketer drive down the average age of its core consumers from 40-year-olds to 30-year-olds. Heineken still caters to its 35-plus demographic, but increasingly focuses on the 25- to 30-year-old beer drinker, said Mike McCann, Heineken's senior brand manager, general market.

Brand integration on TV has become
Included in the Heineken-sponsored episodes of 'American Casino' was a gigantic ice sculpture shaped and colored like a Heineken bottle.

a goal, Mr. McCann said, because the growth in digital video recorders and other ad-skipping technology have blunted the impact of 30-second spots.

"While we're not leaving traditional media, we're more open to this type of marketing because of the relevance it has with consumers," said Mr. McCann, who enjoyed sizeable screen time in the American Casino episodes. "We feel it's a complement to our media plan if it's done in a way that doesn't take away from the content yet gives great brand exposure."

The beer company's representatives said that selecting the appropriate show is the largest single challenge in putting such deals together.

Cherry-picking programs

"We have to cherry-pick programming that's actionable," said Julie Mulholland, founder of Mulholland Drive Entertainment, who barters Heineken's TV integration deals. "So many shows aren't even in our consideration set."

The marketer can get involved in only those shows where 70% of the audience is over 21, Ms. Mulholland said, and gravitates to cable channels such as Discovery, home of the American Chopper and Monster Garage franchises, and Spike TV, with its explanatory tagline, "the first network for men." Heineken already was an advertiser on both networks.

Heineken showcases not only its flagship green-bottled beer in the integration but also its silver-and-green keg cans and its new corked magnum bottle that's being positioned as a club competitor to wine and spirits. The magnum will get distribution in
Included in the Heineken-sponsored episodes of 'American Casino' was a gigantic ice sculpture shaped and colored like a Heineken bottle.

nightspots starting this month, with a selective rollout planned. It's not intended as a mass product at this point, according to the company.

Product as plot line

A scene in an early episode of The Club shows an Ice executive telling the bartenders and cocktail waitresses about the magnum and how to serve it. A storyline that takes the club's staff on a lake trip is littered with Heineken keg cans and logoed beach towels. Reveille Co.'s CEO, Ben Silverman, and Robert Riesenberg, who heads Omnicom Group's Full Circle Entertainment, produce the show, which also has Allied Domecq as an integration partner.

TV shows based in nightclubs work for Heineken on several levels, particularly because music has become a key strategy for the beer marketer. Heineken earlier this year announced a three-year deal with the Grammy Awards for sponsorship and marketing activity, including replacing the red carpet with a green one for celebrity arrivals and sending hundreds of contest winners to the show.

The marketer also sponsors well-attended concerts such as the Coachella Valley Music Festival near Los Angeles and Austin City Limits Music Festival in Texas. Executives look especially for events and artists that attract a multiethnic audience.

Seeking consumer feedback

Mr. McCann said the brand intends to talk to its consumers about the TV shows, soliciting their opinions of the integration. He sees the level of integration as invaluable, far more useful as a brand builder than any traditional product placement.

"It's not just a prop," he said, "it's part of the story."
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