United States Beverage, manufacturers of Grolsch Premium Lager, commissioned its agency of record, 5W Public Relations, to come up with a campaign that would garner attention for the beer in the US during the summer, the big sales period for the beer industry.
Though Grolsch is a major brand in Europe, it's seen as a high-end, specialty beer in this country.
Because the brand's swing-top bottle is so out of the ordinary, the company decided that it should be highlighted in the campaign.
With that in mind, 5W came up with a plan to increase the beer's brand recognition by working with celebrities and a charity.
"We needed to generate attention and awareness for the brand without spending in the tens of millions of dollars," says John Chappell, SVP and marketing director at United States Beverage.
So with a limited budget, 5W decided that celebrity endorsements would be vital, especially because alcohol promotions can at times be tricky. But how could the firm attract voluntary celebrity involvement?
The PR team decided that a cause-related initiative would be necessary to get celebrities to take interest. As the beer's main demographic is young men, the team thought prostate cancer would make for a suitable tie-in.
Meanwhile, 5W also came up with the idea to have celebrities hand paint and autograph the swing-top bottles, which would then be auctioned off on eBay to raise money for a designated organization.
After researching a variety of nonprofits, 5W and United States Beverage chose the National Prostate Cancer Coalition (NPCC) to be the benefactor.
The agency came up with a list of celebrities over the age of 21 that it would like to include in the campaign, such as Donald Trump and Woody Allen. The NPCC's tongue-in-cheek slogan also provided some inspiration.
"Because the NPCC's mission statement is to protect 'the biggest thing in men's health,' we kind of wanted to target comedians," says Heidi Noble, senior account executive at 5W, who led the account team of three people.
To gauge interest, 5W called and e-mailed the representatives for its targeted celebrities, adding to its list as more and more names were mentioned by publicists, agents, and managers. In total, the agency contacted more than 50 celebrities.
Of those, about 20 expressed interest in painting the bottles, and 5W sent them kits that included two Grolsch swing-top bottles, paints, brushes, disposable cameras, release forms, and return shipping through their representation.
5W also conducted national media outreach to trade publications for nonprofits, entertainment magazines, and health editors at daily newspapers, alerting them to the tie-in.
Fifteen celebrities took part in the Grolsch Pop Art campaign, including Trump, Allen, Charlie Rose, Bernie Mac, and Lil' Kim.
"We worked hard to get Bernie Mac," says Noble. "He was very happy to participate."
The auctioned bottles raised more than $2,000 for the NPCC, with Trump's design taking in $500, the highest total.
In addition, through the auction site, 5W was able to drive web traffic to the Grolsch and NPCC websites.
"It was an inexpensive, creative, and effective way to call attention to the brand," says Chappell. "This kind of exposure helps us compensate for not having a $50 million advertising budget."
"We really did achieve our goals," concurs Noble. "We achieved appropriate messaging."
Chappell says United States Beverage will use this initiative as a model when it looks for other creative ways to market Grolsch Premium Lager.
And Noble says 5W is ready to meet the challenge to come up with Grolsch's next innovative idea.
PR team: 5W Public Relations (New York) and United States Beverage (Stamford, CT)
Campaign: Grolsch Pop Art
Time frame: July 20 to October 24, 2004