HomeSponsorship & MarketingFootballNetherlands

Sponsorship Strategy: Heineken’s Champions League Activation

Uefa Champions League sponsorship is at the heart of Dutch beer brand Heineken’s marketing push to hit a target of 100-per-cent growth in its global market share over the next seven years.

Heineken currently has a 1.5 per cent share of the global beer market and wants to achieve a three per cent share by 2020. This is the brand’s principal objective for all marketing initiatives.

Hans Erik Tuijt, global activation director for Heineken and main decision-maker on the brand’s sponsorship investments, sees football fans as a key opportunity for realising the company’s ambition.

“Each year, around one billion people watch the Champions League and they watch it on average four-and-a-half times,” he told Sports Sponsorship Insider.

“We know from research that people are more likely to buy Heineken once they know it’s a sponsor of the Champions League. At this moment, around 60 per cent of football fans of legal drinking age are aware that Heineken is a sponsor of the Champions League.

“But only five per cent of football fans currently drink Heineken. So we are making an impact on a lot of people who are not yet drinking Heineken.”

The Heineken Group has been a sponsor of the Champions League since the start of the 1994-95 season.

The group’s Amstel brand was the focus of the sponsorship between 1994-95 and 2004-05. Heineken has been the lead brand for the sponsorship since the 2005-06 season. 

In the current Champions League commercial rights cycle, 2012-13 to 2014-15, Heineken is paying between €50m ($64.5m) and €55m per year for the sponsorship rights.

Heineken’s Champions League sponsorship activation budget fluctuates each year. The 2012-13 season is the company’s biggest in terms of activation spend since its sponsorship began.

It is using the competition to launch a new global advertising campaign. The focus of the campaign is a new television commercial which has been shown in every market which broadcasts the Champions League.

The activation budget is likely to decrease in 2013-14 as Heineken is unlikely to launch another new advertising campaign next season.

Africa, Asia and beyond

Heineken is running tailored consumer activations in different markets alongside the global Champions League advertising campaign. Each activation is linked to the maturity of the Heineken brand in each market.

“We have anchoring markets, building markets and star markets,” Tuijt said. “An anchoring market is where we have less than 0.5 per cent market share and we are running very simple trial promotions – the Champions League is the only communications platform these markets will see from Heineken.”

Building markets are where Heineken has a more established market share and star markets are where the brand is considered to have a very strong presence.

Activations in building markets and star markets focus more on engaging loyal customers through digital activations and more sophisticated consumer promotions. Europe is considered a collection of star markets for Heineken as it is where the brand is most well-established.

Greater opportunities for growth exist for Heineken in Africa, Asia and Latin America than in Europe. It has increased Champions League sponsorship activation spend in these markets and will continue to do so.

“Europe is not so much a growth territory anymore,” said Tuijt. “There are more people watching the Champions League in Asia than there are in Europe. 

“I see that trend continuing and that gives us the opportunity to leverage the Champions League and our brand in the region.

“We really try to engage with Champions League into territories where our growth is.”

As part of the ‘Road to the Final’ activation programme, for example, Heineken has taken the Champions League trophy to key growth markets including Indonesia, Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2013.

Fewer, bigger and better

The Champions League is Heineken’s largest sponsorship investment in terms of rights fee and activation budget.

Heineken’s other global sponsorship investments include the Heineken Cup – the premier European club rugby union tournament – the Rugby World Cup and an entertainment-based sponsorship of the James Bond movie franchise.

The brand also has a local deal with the US Open Grand Slam tennis event. Heineken UK was a tier three sponsor of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Heineken is not currently looking to grow its existing sponsorship portfolio. “I believe in fewer, bigger and better,” said Tuijt. “We like to associate with big, global engagements and doing them with impact. We are definitely not looking at expanding.”

Heineken’s global marketing team is scheduled to meet at the company’s headquarters in Amsterdam at the end of May to discuss plans and budgets for 2014. Global budgets will be finalised in September and October. There is no specific allocation for sponsorship.

“Sponsorship is my job but I don’t always advocate it,” said Tuijt. “I advocate effective ways to communicate. 

“I think you should have an objective to spend so much of your money on commercial activities but I would be totally against saying that you have to spend so much on sponsorship.

“It would not be wise to do this because it then becomes an objective to gather assets and gathering assets can never be the goal.”

Most recent

The slow-moving, divided nature of top-level professional boxing has left the sport’s highest echelons more vulnerable to the Covid-19 shutdown. Tyson vs. Jones Jr. proves that a little flexibility can go a long way. Callum McCarthy reports.

How will global sports industries adapt to the likely prospect of a more inward looking world? And can cancelled events easily win back the hearts of fans in Asia? SportBusiness asks three experts on the region for their thoughts.

In the wake of the West Indies’ recent tour of England, Cricket West Indies chief executive officer Johnny Grave speaks about CWI’s opposition to the ICC's current revenue sharing model for international cricket tours.

Jerry Korczak, managing director, sports finance, at Macquarie Group, considers the range of finance options available to football clubs to help them navigate the challenges ahead