Fan Zone Case Study: Holland Heineken House

The Holland Heineken House is an all-round meeting place, office and famous party venue jointly organised by the Dutch brewer Heineken and the Dutch Olympic committee NOC*NSF.

The House has been set up at every summer and winter Olympic Games since 1992 in Barcelona, and is opened up to visitors during the day to watch Olympic events on big screens amongst providing other entertainment.

Freek de Wette
Events and Sponsorships Manager

We started the Holland Heineken House because the Dutch national Olympic committee (NOC) asked us to become one of its sponsors. However, we have a company policy in place that restricts us from directly appearing as sponsors on athletes’ kits, so instead the NOC wanted to use our worldwide network of offices whenever it had to be situated at an Olympic host city.

Holland, together with Heineken, were therefore the first to set up these ‘Olympic Houses’ – other countries then followed suit.

We invite – mainly non-accredited – media to the Heineken House, so that they can have access to a great working environment. The NOC’s media partners in both radio and TV also set up a studio in the House for daily live broadcasts with athlete interviews.

Hosting this fan zone is purely for brand awareness, as the equity and sales generated is practically nothing. It’s a marketing operation, and beyond that, we wanted to provide a celebration for Dutch fans and athletes in a home away from home. 

What you see in general, in my opinion, is sports bodies want to give back to their sponsors – so that’s why there’s fan zones like the FIFA Fan Fest, which also double up as crowd control. However, the key difference between the Holland Heineken House and other fan zones is that it really brings the Olympic experience to the fans. In fact, the general fan zones are more for watching sports events with live screening rather than providing an extra experience.

We’ve now added another layer to the Heineken House by creating the Legendary Lane where we place tiles in the House like in the Hollywood Walk of Fame for all Dutch medal winners. 

It is not okay for athletes to drink, and we don’t allow that in the Heineken House. My principle is always to safely manage a situation rather than to outright forbid it. When visitors come to the House they have to present their identification card with a ticket, they are also asked if they’re driving home and are given a black wrist band if so. All the staff are trained to stop any person with a black wrist band from drinking alcohol.

Any person under the legal drinking age of the host country is also not allowed to drink alcohol. Athletes are also fully committed to the rules of the Dutch NOC, which restricts them from drinking until after all of their sporting performances. 

The House had more than 100,000 visitors during the 2012 London summer Olympics, and there was not one incident as we have really trained our staff, which is also part of our Drink Responsibly programme.

London 2012 was an exception in that we were so close to home that we needed the space to give everyone a chance of getting in. The venue for the Heineken House at the 2016 Rio Olympics, on the other hand, will be smaller with a capacity of 3,500. It will be a mix of the Brazilian and Dutch cultures, and we will host a Heineken Club at the House every night during the Games after the medal celebrations, but we are still currently in the process of gaining all permits.

Heineken bears all of the costs for the House as part of our partnership with the Dutch NOC. The cost is significant, and we don’t really get a discount on our supplier deal because of it either.

However, if we did research into the return on investment, we’d probably find a gain in brand equity, and most importantly, it has brought us into the conversation of the consumers.

If they speak about the Olympics they also speak about the Holland Heineken House. That’s in fact what provides us with the value in hosting the House.


To continue reading SportBusiness International's Fan Zones sector focus, please click the links below:

1. All for one, one for all: Greg Bowman, managing and creative director of Great Big Events, talks about the planning process and operational challenges of fan zones. Whilst Fuse account director James English and TRO’s European group account director Ben Goss reveal how to create fan zone concepts that reflect the profile of sponsors

2. Safety First: With fan festivals attracting huge populations of the host city, the top priority for rights-holders is safety. Helmut Spahn, director general of ICSS (the International Centre for Sport Security), explains how difficult it is for event organisers to address concerns in this area

3. Case Study: FIFA Fan Fest

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