Heineken Video Stunt Woos U.S.-Based Champions League Fans

Dutch beer brand tries to con­nect with the 90 mil­lion U.S. pas­sion­ate fans of Euro­pean foot­ball.

Lisa Lacy By Lisa Lacy. Join the discussion » 0 comments

While Bud­weis­er and its pup­py may have a stran­gle­hold on the Amer­i­can foot­ball mar­ket, Dutch beer brand Heineken is tar­get­ing a small­er sub­set of U.S. foot­ball fans – or, more specif­i­cal­ly, Amer­i­can fans of Euro­pean foot­ball. Accord­ing to Heineken’s fig­ures, there are 90 mil­lion such fans in the U.S. The brand has kicked off its 2015 #Cham­pi­onThe­Match UEFA Cham­pi­ons League cam­paign in order to bring those fans “clos­er to the sport they love.”

Heineken under­stands how chal­leng­ing it is to be a fan of soc­cer in the U.S. – par­tic­u­lar­ly a fan of UEFA Cham­pi­ons League because the games are nor­mal­ly played on week­days dur­ing work hours. So the brand is find­ing ways to get U.S. fans clos­er to the game in new and excit­ing ways, said Quinn Kil­bury, senior direc­tor of mar­ket­ing at Heineken.

We know that soc­cer is a sport that has been grow­ing in pop­u­lar­i­ty here in the U.S. But we also know that many Amer­i­can fans feel left out when it comes to being able to watch the biggest Euro­pean games on the biggest stages,” Kil­bury said. “We con­duct­ed a sur­vey that showed that half of Amer­i­cans under the age of 35 would be big­ger fans of soc­cer if it was eas­i­er to watch. So as a result, we want­ed to cre­ate a cam­paign that would con­nect Amer­i­can soc­cer fans to the great­est soc­cer tour­na­ment in Europe, the UEFA Cham­pi­ons League.”

Heineken’s cam­paign includes a ded­i­cat­ed soc­cer site, which it says is “a new source for exclu­sive con­tent, expert insights from UEFA leg­ends, fan Q&As and more.” It also includes video con­tent.

Fans Prove Their Passion

To see how far Amer­i­can fans would go to get their UCL fix, Heineken says it con­duct­ed anoth­er one of its social exper­i­ments, in which it filmed “unsus­pect­ing fans” in a New York bode­ga dur­ing lunch hour and “offered them a choice to go back to work or drop every­thing and imme­di­ate­ly fly to Barcelona to watch a UCL match live.”

How­ev­er, in order to par­tic­i­pate, they had to bring their boss­es with them.


Heineken has been a spon­sor of the Cham­pi­ons League since 2005 and shares fans’ pas­sion for soc­cer. Fur­ther, the spur-of-the-momen­t/bring-your-boss caveat forced fans to “prove their pas­sion on the spot,” he said.

The result­ing YouTube video has about 64,000 views as of Feb­ru­ary 19.

Challenge Consumers To Step Out Of Their Comfort Zones

This isn’t the first time Heineken has pulled a spur-of-the-moment video stunt like this. Its 2013 Depar­ture Roulette video, in which it asked pas­sen­gers at JFK to change their itin­er­aries at the last minute, has more than 3 mil­lion views to date.

Anoth­er social exper­i­ment, The Pay­phone, tapped come­di­an Fred Armisen to anony­mous­ly call a pay­phone across the street from a com­e­dy club in New York and reward con­sumers “who were brave enough to answer the call and walk into the unknown…with a unique expe­ri­ence.” It has near­ly 14 mil­lion views since it post­ed in July 2014.

Heineken has always main­tained a belief that you can live a leg­endary and more excit­ing life when you step out of your com­fort zone and try some­thing new,” Kil­bury said. “Our social exper­i­ments are about pos­ing a chal­lenge to con­sumers to ‘cross their bor­ders,’ step out of their com­fort zones and receive a once in a life­time expe­ri­ence, like get­ting to watch a live UCL match in Barcelona that same day, that only Heineken can pro­vide.”

Champion The Match’

In addi­tion to the ded­i­cat­ed site and videos, Heineken invites fans 21 and over to fol­low @HeinekenSoccer and the hash­tag #Cham­pi­onThe­Match, where the brand says they can receive real-time access and live com­men­tary from for­mer play­ers, such as for­mer Cham­pi­ons League cham­pi­on and cur­rent Major League Soc­cer star David Vil­la and “Dutch leg­end” Ruud Gul­lit, as well as “unex­pect­ed guests, and sur­prise Heineken twists dur­ing mar­quee match­es through­out the tour­na­ment.”

@HeinekenSoccer has about 6,000 fol­low­ers as of Feb­ru­ary 19; per Top­sy, #Cham­pi­onThe­Match has been used about 15,000 times in the past week.

Much of the cam­paign involves these stars show­ing how you can ‘cham­pi­on the match’ from wher­ev­er you are in the world,” Kil­bury said. “Some­times that means from a remote chalet in the Swiss Alps or in a New York City office.”

The Heineken soc­cer site will also house infor­ma­tion about upcom­ing events includ­ing addi­tion­al Twit­ter han­dle takeovers, plus details on the arrival of the Cham­pi­ons League tro­phy and its tour across the U.S., in which fans can take pho­tos with the tro­phy, see Cham­pi­ons League mem­o­ra­bil­ia and meet soc­cer leg­ends and UCL win­ners in New York, Dal­las and Los Ange­les. Per the UEFA, the 2014–2015 Cham­pi­ons League began in June 2014 and will end with a final in Berlin on June 6.

Creating Loyal Fans For Life

If Heineken is tar­get­ing Amer­i­can fans of Euro­pean foot­ball, then I can only assume that they have some research which shows that Amer­i­cans who fol­low the UEFA Cham­pi­ons League are more like­ly to drink beer from a Dutch brew­ing com­pa­ny,” said Greg Jar­boe, pres­i­dent of inter­net mar­ket­ing ser­vices firm SEO-PR. “That may not seem like a large mar­ket seg­ment, but Heineken’s cur­rent mar­ket share is around 2 per­cent, so tar­get­ing niche mar­ket seg­ments on this side of the pond makes sense.”

While the num­ber of U.S.-based fans of Euro­pean foot­ball may not be huge, Thom Craver, vice pres­i­dent of devel­op­ment and IT at mar­ket­ing and SEO ser­vices com­pa­ny Inter­net Mar­ket­ing Nin­jas, says the ones who do know the game are quite pas­sion­ate.

You can go to any MLS sta­di­um and find a good per­cent­age of peo­ple who are tru­ly fans,” he said.

If Heineken is look­ing for viral video suc­cess, he said the mar­ket­ing bud­get to fly con­sumers to Barcelona is like­ly cheap­er than com­pa­ra­ble mar­ket­ing ini­tia­tives and has the added advan­tage of cement­ing incred­i­bly loy­al fans.

Soc­cer fans are quite pas­sion­ate, so if [Heineken] can get behind that and [enable] fans to see their favorite team across the pond and get them to drink beer, too, [they’ll cre­ate loy­al fans for life],” Craver said.

Craver even likens Heineken’s so-called social exper­i­ments to Bud Light’s #Upfor­What­ev­er cam­paign.

It’s those kind of stunts [that prove] viral mar­ket­ing is work­ing and it’s on par if not cheap­er [than oth­er mar­ket­ing efforts] and can make fans for life,” Craver said. “This is [Heineken] try­ing to go into new mar­kets and real­ly hand­pick their tar­get audi­ence with mes­sag­ing they know will work.”

What do you think of Heineken’s efforts to attract U.S.-based UCL fans?

Lisa Lacy

Written by Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a senior features writer for Inked. She also previously covered digital marketing for Incisive Media. Her background includes editorial positions at Dow Jones, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, AOL, Amazon, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

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