Premium lager Heineken has long been associated with rugby in
Europe and throughout the world. However, this year’s Rugby World Cup is
sponsored by Guinness, and the England team is being sponsored by
Tetley, while Heineken is not one of the official sponsors.
But the company wanted to maintain its links with the sport and came up
with an innovative sponsorship campaign - Sponsoring You.
The idea, devised by Heineken marketing staff, was that instead of
sponsoring the tournament, a team or individual players, activities
devised by Heineken would sponsor drinkers to the tune of pounds 5
million. The concept also tied in with the brand’s ’How refreshing, how
To create a high-profile, national news story to generate awareness of
Heineken’s Sponsoring You campaign.
Strategy and Plan
A news story was needed to link Heineken to the Rugby World Cup to pave
the way for additional marketing, PR and sales activity over the
following three months.
Julia Carling agreed to front the campaign, donating her fee to
Breakthrough Breast Cancer. Although she was an obvious choice, because
of her links to rugby, her surname was understandably a problem.
Heineken’s retained PR agency Communique PR came up with the idea of
changing her name to Julia Heineken for the length of the promotion.
Julia said she would use her new surname for all TV appearances,
although Communique PR settled for calling her Julia H after a
discussion with the ITC and with the switchboard at the station she
worked for, VH-1, so that it could explain the change to any confused
National news desks were approached the week before the photo
Once the story hit the nationals, marketing and media press, the Sunday
papers and weekly titles like OK! and Hello were targeted.
Since the launch, Communique PR has run competitions in the Guardian
Guide and 14 regional newspapers. It has designed sponsorship packs
featuring inflatable goal posts, beer and seat reservers for use by home
viewers as prizes, as well as two round-the-world tickets to watch rugby
from a warmer destination, or escape it all together.
There was even more activity in Cardiff, the host city of the World
Houses and cars were branded, and a ’refreshing’ rugby competition,
where the men’s and women’s teams from the university played against
each other, was held.
An e-mail address where drinkers can send their suggestions for
sponsorship activities has been swamped. One suggestion came from a
rugby team which claimed that unless it received funding for new kits,
the players would have to play naked. Challenged by the PR team, the
rugby players agreed to pose nude, with pictures appearing in the Sun
and the team’s local newspaper, the Manchester Evening News.
Measurement and Evaluation
Coverage was received in the Sun, Mirror, Star and the front page of the
Daily Telegraph and the Express. The story also attracted attention on
TV and radio. The Big Breakfast and Chris Evans covered the story
extensively during their morning paper reviews.
Once the tournament wraps up in early November, evaluation will include
consumer surveys, research into the brand’s positioning against other
sponsors and analysis of the media.
A simple idea, well executed, which will add huge value to Heineken’s
sponsorship, and may leave official sponsors feeling they have missed a
trick. Chris Evans was even inspired to ask his Virgin radio listeners
to call in and let him know who’d come up with ’the best PR stunt
PR Team: Communique PR
Campaign: Julia Heineken Sponsoring You launch (Rugby World Cup)
Time-scale: September 1999
Budget: pounds 5 million for sponsorship, part of ongoing retainer work.