As one its biggest sponsored events, the Coachella Festival, gets underway this weekend, Heineken USA’s chief marketing officer Jonnie Cahill spoke with Marketing Daily about the state of event marketing for the beverage giant following two years of mostly virtual events.
Marketing Daily:How have the past two years affected Heineken USA’s approach to event marketing?
Cahill: We used to have a binary view of online or offline events, but there’s been a complete blurring of that now. People are very comfortable with things happening in a hybrid world. They’re looking to extend the experience.
Fans want an end-to-end experience, from the actual event itself to digital content afterwards. Heineken USA is trying to find ways to make seamless connections between digital and in-person experiences that match people’s expectations.
Marketing Daily: Can you talk a little about what kinds of virtual events you offered over the past couple of years?
Cahill: One example is our El Patio series presented by Tecate. During the pandemic, people were craving live music. El Patio offered fans a reimagined virtual experience featuring immersive livestream concerts that showcased amazing Latin artists from backyards around California, Texas and Mexico.
At Heineken USA, we’re lucky to have authentic cultural brands that transcend our product innovations. Tecate is an example, and this was on display in the El Patio series. The monthly concerts highlighted different sub-genres of Latin music. Complete with curated limited-edition merch, all proceeds were directly donated to our nonprofit partners.
Marketing Daily: How does the number of venues and events on Heineken USA’s schedule this year compare with 2019, both in quantity and quality?
Cahill: Heineken USA is involved in many of the same events we were in before the pandemic, but there is an increased level of engagement from attendees due to years of pent-up excitement. As a result, we have to deliver in new and exciting ways on those expectations. It’s not enough just to copy and paste what we used to do. We need to up our game.
Marketing Daily: Let’s discuss some specific events, starting with music festivals -- not only Coachella, but August’s Outside Lands.
Cahill: While these events may look and feel similar to previous years, we are always looking for new and exciting artists to perform, and we think this year’s lineup at both events will be a magnet for festivalgoers.
“Heineken House” at Coachella will once again provide a premium music experience featuring artists like Vegyn, Flying Lotus, Thundercat, Ms Nina, and more.
The most recent edition of “The House by Heineken” at Outside Lands provided the ultimate backyard party to festival-goers. Attendees hung out with an ice-cold Heineken and caught an exclusive lineup of DJ performances headlined by Sango, Kelis, and Egyptian Lover. We are looking forward to returning to the festival this August.
Marketing Daily: Turning to sports, the Miami Grand Prix is coming up next month. What can you tell us about that experience?
Cahill: Heineken is the exclusive beer sponsor of Formula 1 [F1] and has been a sponsor since 2016. We are proud to continue to support the growth of the sport as it makes its way around the world. As the iconic European import beer, there is a lot our brand shares in common with F1.
Our F1 partnership provides a critical platform to communicate our “When You Drink Never Drive” campaign to remind people that safe decisions are critical to responsible enjoyment.
Marketing Daily: You’re also upping your presence in stadiums and arenas, right?
Cahill: Heineken USA is the exclusive beer and hard seltzer partner of the brand-new UBS Arena, home of the New York Islanders and a premium venue for high-profile events.
Heineken USA is also is a partner with it first-ever NFL team as the exclusive import beer and hard seltzer partner of the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium.
Marketing Daily: We understand you also host “premium” experiences at sports events.
Cahill: Being a premium brand, everything we do must showcase a premium experience. Events such as Major League Soccer, the U.S. Open and the Los Angeles Marathon play an integral part in consumer engagement that enhances our brand awareness and visibility.
Connecting in person also allows us to sample our latest innovations.
For example, Heineken USA’s “Red Star Patio Cafe” [at the U.S .Open] gives fans the opportunity to relax in the shade and enjoy a refreshing beverage and snack.
Another premium experience is the rooftop bar at the DC United Soccer team stadium.
Marketing Daily: Is there an overall target audience for Heineken USA’s event marketing, or does that vary per event?
Cahill: Yes, whilst the ages of our targeting do vary per event, we target those of legal drinking age 21+, with a focus on consumers between ages 21-35.
Marketing Daily: How does Heineken USA tie all these events in with each brand’s overall marketing strategy, and how involved are you with pre-event promotion and marketing?
Cahill: We are very thoughtful about picking partners and sponsorship opportunities. Partnerships need to authentically connect with our brands and reach relevant consumers We also look for partners that value what we do as an organization, such as the joys of togetherness and the importance of responsibility.