Heineken Gets A Shiner At ACL Music Festival

In this down economy, brands both large and small possess smaller marketing budgets -- and often, less is more. For example, Shiner Beer used limited resources to create a presence at last year's Austin City Limits Music Festival. Here's the catch: the three-day festival already had an exclusive, paying beer sponsor.

Heineken shelled out an undisclosed amount of money to be the official beer sponsor of the festival, which attracts roughly 65,000 people daily.

Undeterred, Shiner Beer's agency, McGarrah Jessee, created beer koozies that looked exactly like Shiner beer cans. These koozies were handed out to ACL concertgoers en route to the festival grounds.

Street teams distributed 10,000 koozies that completely obscured Heineken's logo, making it appear that Shiner Beer was being imbibed inside a festival where only Heineken was allowed.

By the time Heineken and festival organizers learned about the stunt, all the koozies had been dispensed.

How do you view the campaign? If I were Heineken, I'd be pretty POed if I found out that a rival, albeit a smaller one, outsmarted me after having paid to be an official festival sponsor.

While 10,000 koozies were handed out, that doesn't mean 10,000 were used inside the festival. Even if 10% of the koozies were used, though, that's 10% more than I'd want parading around festival grounds, if my name were Heineken.

Then there's the flip side. You can give credit to Shiner Beer and McGarrah Jessee for orchestrating a stunt that initially feels like a David vs. Goliath battle, which I'm sure took Heineken by surprise.

To me it still feels that Shiner comes off as the sore loser for not having the resources to serve as a legitimate sponsor.

19 comments about "Heineken Gets A Shiner At ACL Music Festival".
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  1. Janice Kreutzer from Bisig Impact Group, March 2, 2009 at 3 p.m.

    I think this is brilliant guerilla marketing. If you don't have a Heinekin budget creative with the budget you do have.

  2. Rob Minton from General Motors, March 2, 2009 at 3 p.m.

    I give kudos to Shiner for executing a creative and effective "guerilla marketing" tactic. Why spend $$ on a sponsorship if you get a bigger bang on a 50 cent koozie? Not to mention that the koozie has staying power... something an empty can of Heinekin does not.

  3. Dave Kohl from First In Promotions, March 2, 2009 at 3:04 p.m.

    I don't agree that Shiner comes off as the "loser". Whether they did or didn't have the resources to serve as a legit sponsor they got their message out there, and one that will last longer than the Heineken sponsorship because some festival attendees came home with a Shiner reminder in the possession. It's not like they came home with empty beer cans.

    The marketing question to me is to see what happens next year (or next time) at this festival. If I were handling Heineken, I would advise them NOT to sponsor this fest again unless the promoters did some sort of "make good", even though this was no fault of the promoters.

    And if I were handling for Shiner, I would again have the can covers made up and plan a giveaway - but next time I would send the people out to give them away later in the day - as people were leaving the festival.

    This way, if the fest people are scouting outside to try and break up any such attempt, they might give it up figuring Shiner won't be back. And if people are not bringing Shiner materials inside the fest grounds, there's nothing the fest people can do about it.

  4. Phil Thompson from Kansas Expocentre / SMG, March 2, 2009 at 3:06 p.m.

    Brilliant! Shiner was the winner, so I don't know how you could call them a "sore loser". This reminds me of marketing tactics from my radio days.

  5. Warren Lee from WHL Consulting, March 2, 2009 at 3:10 p.m.

    I agree with Rob and Janice, what a great execution of guerrilla marketing. The creative genius behind this should be given kudos and their employer should lavish praise upon them quickly, before a better offer comes around. If we are ever in the need of an ad agency, McGarrah Jessee just moved to the top of the list. Keep up the creative disruption!

  6. Eric Webber from McGarrah Jessee, March 2, 2009 at 3:17 p.m.

    Sore Loser? You gotta be kidding. Corr confuses "not having the resources" with not wasting the client's resources. Heineken had a lock on the sponsorship, so the opportunity wasn't even available. And even if it was, is it the best use of a client's money to pay a huge premium for something dull and expected, like exclusive signage at the event? Or spend far less and get a greater impact (and ROI) for the client?

    If anyone is sore about this, it's Heineken and their agency.

  7. Dana Collins from Direct Management, March 2, 2009 at 3:29 p.m.

    Agreed, kudos to Shiner.

    Shiner already has cred amongst the music community and is more than likely the beer that many of the festival goers are grabbing once they are off festival grounds. To hand out these koozies not only reinforces the idea that Shiner is the outsider (both literally & figuratively), but it allows them to cleverly and cost-effectively counter Heineken's efforts.

    Not to mention, as Rob notes, the staying power of the koozie.

    A toast to McGarrah Jessee, with a Shiner back...

  8. Marc Girolimetti from Actslike, Inc, March 2, 2009 at 3:34 p.m.

    Amy I'm not sure if you failed to mention it on purpose, but Austin is Shiner country. That's all I drink for beer when I visit there and if you watch part 1 of the film "Deathproof", you'll see Shiner all over the place not because they paid for product placement, but rather because Quentin Tarantino wanted it to be as authentic as possible. It's certainly not sore loser behavior, but rather a small and outnumbered group defending it's turf. The people at Shiner are fantastic. They expend a lot of energy managing Facebook and Twitter accounts by truly engaging their audience. They have won over their fair share of fans, just by being with the people. Keep an eye on them as they expand, which would benefit somebody like me who cannot buy their ridiculously good beer here in Boston.

  9. Bryan Boettger from Reevuit, March 2, 2009 at 3:38 p.m.

    IMHO, you have to start by asking "who is the target consumer?" In this case, it doesn't seem to be a high-end beer drinker. Likely, it is someone that likes to know about things outside the mainstream. So, I would say Shiner hit it on the money. Even if the sponsorship WAS available, this tactic seems to match their brand and target audience better.

  10. Patrick Grady from BIG Media Sales LLC, March 2, 2009 at 3:50 p.m.

    Amy, It is simple. BIG agencies = SLOW and old fashion.
    Small agencies = think outside the box. I have been dealing with BIG agencies my entire life and have never found them to be open to NEW ideas. Shiner's agency should be awarded for the great idea, and Heineken should FIRE it's BIG boring agency and start to do more non traditional media and promotions.

    They should wrap trolleys in Chicago, put up Don't drink and drive signs in major parking lost all over the USA. THINK Outside the box.

    Patrick Grady

  11. Sonja Howle from Wizards of Ads, March 2, 2009 at 4:04 p.m.

    Like it or not, festivals like this are expensive and difficult to execute. Congrats to Heineken for participating as a major sponsor!

    (I noticed from the Shiner site, they no longer host their famous "Bocktoberfest." Release states "Owner of Shiner brewery decides to cancel Bocktoberfest concerts. Says events lost money and required too much time of employees.) See

    Shiner's tactics seem cheap. Shiner deserves the shiner.

  12. Debra Johnson from Gilbreath Communications, Inc., March 2, 2009 at 4:09 p.m.

    WOW! LOL Maybe Heinekin should bring McGarah Jessee on board for a payback. This is to funny.

  13. Jason Kapler from LiveWOrld, March 2, 2009 at 4:20 p.m.

    The guerrilla tactics and anti-establishment feelings they inspire are well suited for most of the people attending ACL. Much of the corporate sponsorship can be interpreted as selling-out by this audience. It's not surprising that given the opportunity to support an underdog (local) brand and turn their nose up to the global yuppie branded beer people did so.

    Or it was really hot and people wanted to keep their beer cold.

    Either way, give credit where it's due - Shiner and McGARRAH/JESSEE for having the courage of their convictions.

  14. Catherine Ventura from @catherinventura, March 2, 2009 at 4:33 p.m.

    Plus we're still talking about it so it's going viral, and I'm about to Tweet it... Good job!

  15. Tom Jeffrey from Hook, March 2, 2009 at 4:37 p.m.

    What Shiner did was smart, and seeing that people are still talking about the coozies a year later, I'd say it was money well spent.

  16. Stephen Markow, March 2, 2009 at 4:40 p.m.

    Never under-estimate the power of "rebellious" and "irreverent" sentiment from the prime 18 + beer guzzling audience.....local "flavor" if authenically marketed "grass-roots"....still can pre-empt big/corporate....should be interesting to see how AB fares with new non- "Homeland" ownership.....
    PS - As a event producer and sponsorship marketer....having the right local authorities on payroll and or as friends (I.e. City employees, & off-duty police) , plus alert event staff.....usually can preempt/shut alot of these efforts quickly, especially with all the alcoholic beverage ordinances & senstivtities

  17. Courtney Smith from PureMatter Brand Marketing + Interactive, March 2, 2009 at 5:38 p.m.

    Does anyone else see the brilliance of a "win-win" marketing smackdown like this? For all the people cheering for either Shiner or Heiney, there is now a completely new, unexpected audience that knows Heiney was a sponsor of a relatively small music festival in Austin and that Shiner is a cool microbrew with attitude and kahones.

    Bravo to both; they're equal winners on my WOM meter. Now I'm thirsty.

  18. Doug Wick from Powered, March 3, 2009 at 10:47 a.m.

    The only other thing I'd mention is that this shows pretty strong regional savvy. Austinites are fiercely loyal to local brands and given the opportunity will buy into grassroots marketing when it's available - it's likely that way more than 10% of these went used. Heinekin is a marketing innovator, they could have provided their own irreverent koozies to keep the beer cold on a hot summer day - they just didn't think of it and got outflanked this time.

  19. Alan Reisberg from Capital Media, March 4, 2009 at 10:08 p.m.

    Great decision by Shiner not to sponsor ACL for what I'm sure was a ridiculously steep price considering that each of the beer-drinking festers probably had significant Shiner exposure before and after being at the Fest given Shiner's vast distribution and presence in Austin. In fact, I wouldn't doubt that Shiner has higher brand equity than Heinekin in Austin based on product quality, distribution, relevance and integration within many social strata and importantly near ubiquitous point-of-sale presence. While the "media" placement was great, in my opinion, the design of the koozie really took the effort to the outsanding level. You just have to smile when thinking about all those Heinies being downed invisibly while wearing Shiner colors. Bravo to the agency.

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