Heineken’s Market Leadership Sustainability Drive

Raheem Akingbolu writes on the enduring competition in the premium beer market and how the Heineken brand is sustaining its market leadership

Sponsorship and activation are among the readily available tools being explored by brand owners to boost sales in any competitive market. 

As the market records new entrants, existing brands change gear through various marketing strategies to bond more with consumers.  

The keen contest for the leadership of Nigeria’s beer market has been going on for years but the trend appears to be changing in recent years as a result of new entrants into the market. For the promoters of Heineken, from the stable of the Nigerian Breweries, the determination not to abdicate their leadership position for any new comer has been intense. Through domestication of its global campaign at various local markets, including Nigeria, spin doctors working on the sustainability of Heineken’s leadership are daily raising the bar for the globally acclaimed brand.

Leadership Drive 

In line with this, the Heineken brand has consistently leveraged its sponsorship of the UEFA Champions League to promote its brand essence and create a top of mind awareness among its high end consumers. In Nigeria, the brand raised the stake three years ago when it facilitated the coming to Nigeria of Spanish legend, Carles Puyol with the iconic UEFA Champions League trophy. Last month, the feat was achieved again when the brand, again, showcased the iconic Champions League trophy accompanied to Nigeria by football legend Clarence Seedorf. This was followed by tours held in the two cities of Lagos and Abuja.

In the end, it turned out to be a double-edged sword because the tour was accompanied by notable Nigerian sports personalities like Jay Jay Okocha, Daniel Amokachi  and top Nigerian Music stars, led by the multi-award-winning superstar Davido.  Just like strike partners with the sole aim of banging in goals, the performances of Davido and Reekado in Lagos as well as Peruzzi and Lojay in Abuja were exhilarating. In a way, the infusion of music into the tour simply demonstrated the affinity between music and sport in brand building.

The popular musicians were on hand to delight the crowd with half-time entertainment and after-party displays which capped off a memorable experience for fans and loyal Heineken consumers.

For Davido, he even demonstrated he is the best of two worlds with his performance in the faceoff challenge in which he led the likes of Austin Jay Jay Okocha and Daniel Amokachi against Team Heineken captained by the legendary Seedorf in a five-a-side football contest.

Other music stars like MI and Darey Art Alade were also part of Team Davido and they did exceptionally well with the former getting on the scorer’s sheet and the latter dazzling the fans with his goalkeeping talents that should catch the fancy of clubs in and around Nigeria.

Though the battle for the UCL semi-final tickets was understandably intense among the teams, the fans of the competing clubs were winners regardless of the outcome all thanks to Heineken.

In both Lagos and Abuja, the fans were rewarded for their passion and knowledge of the game simply by answering simple questions about the Champions League.

While in Nigeria, Seedorf said he was happy to be back ‘home’ with the trophy that meant a million things to him.

“We have the opportunity to bring this trophy close to those who never imagined or dreamt about getting close to the trophy. It’s beautiful to send that message to dream big, work hard, stay away from drugs and be a person that believes in himself and this is how I came to realise my dream.” the football legend stated while addressing reporters in Lagos.

For Emmanuel Oriakhi, Marketing Director Nigerian Breweries Plc, he succinctly captured the importance attached to the Heineken Champions League trophy tour which remains one of the biggest events on the calendar of the international premium beer brand.

He said: As always Heineken always has something spectacular for Nigerians and once again we are doing this. A lot of people argued that maybe the timing would have been more perfect concerning the disappointment Nigeria suffered a few weeks back.

“But we are resilient as a people and we are always positive and believe tomorrow will be better. For those of us still disappointed not qualifying for the World Cup we have the UEFA Champions League. 

“The UEFA Champions League is one of the best sporting events in the world and Heineken has been partners with UEFA for quite a while and in Nigeria, we have been activating this for a very long period.

While this is not the first time the UEFA Champions League trophy will be coming to Nigeria, there were a couple of fresh innovations that made this 2022 edition even more worthwhile.

Memorabilia, jerseys, balls and lots of other prizes were won by the fans and loyal Heineken consumers who danced to the sonorous tunes supplied by the DJs at the end of the match-days.

The UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour was a chance for football fans around the world to get closer to the iconic UEFA Champions League Trophy. 

It was developed to enable fans globally to have the chance to get closer to the UEFA Champions League competition and the trophy itself. 

The 2021/22 Heineken’s UEFA Champions League campaign titled, “Cheers to All Fans”, highlights that football belongs to all passionate fans and challenges the stereotype that football belongs to men.

With music in the mix, both the men and women were united for the love of the game even as they wished for more unique football viewing experiences with Heineken

The Undercurrents

Until recently, Heineken was perhaps the only premium brand in the market competing with itself. But with the entry of AB InBev’s Budweiser into the market in 2016, the game changed but Heineken remains a leader because of its firm grip of the market. At the beginning, there were doubts here and there on whether this globally-acclaimed beer brand would really and truly join the ranks of brands to slug it out in Africa’s largest market. Budweiser’s entry thus became a threat to the revenue and future profitability of Heineken’s Nigerian Breweries and Diageo’s Guinness Nigeria.

Budweiser’s journey into Nigeria started in 2016 when AB InBev and SABMiller combined their businesses in the largest merger ever for a $100 billion deal to become the largest beer maker in the world. To stage its entry into Nigeria, the latter bought more stakes in International Breweries Plc raising its equity to 75.1 percent.

Other Positioning Tools

Beyond its investment in sports and entertainment, the brand has also appointed sport personalities and music icons as ambassadors to boost its market influence.

Poised to tell a Nigerian story that will resonate through families and cultures across the country, the beer brand, had six years ago, teamed up with Nigerian-American singer, Jidenna to bond more with its patrons.

In a TVC that was then airing on television, Jidenna was seen sharing gifts with his family after a trip back home, a perfect representation of the bond that is shared by many Nigerian families.

The signing of the music star as an ambassador for the campaign has since been described by many analysts as a classic move because Jidenna is seen as someone who believes strongly in the importance of family and has never hesitated to show off his own.

Top Notch

For a brand that has been the go-to beer brand in over 190 countries of the world connecting families and friendships, the UEFA Champions League trophy tours have remained a landmark achievement.  According to the company, the trophy tour was to enable the iconic sports personalities to rub minds with stakeholders in the beer industry and sports enthusiasts.

At a media briefing in Lagos, where Seedorf, who is one of the most successful players in UEFA Champions League history and the first and currently the only player to have won the trophy with three clubs shared his inspirational experience that would definitely resonate with everyone that came in contact with him during his short stay in Nigeria.

“We have the opportunity to bring this trophy close to those who never imagined or dreamt about getting close to the trophy. It’s beautiful to send that message to dream big, work hard, stay away from drugs and be a person that believes in himself and this is how I came to realise my dream.”

Aside from the glitz and glamour that was the hallmark of the trophy tour, Heineken through its loaded two-day activities also passed some salient lessons that would encourage Nigerian youth to aspire to achieve laudable set goals that can be likened to lifting the most-coveted trophy in global club football.

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