'We Ran A Different Playbook': Behind Dos Equis' 'Tailgate Throwdown' Strategy


Heineken's Dos Equis recently wrapped a campaign focusing on the real star of college football: the tailgate party.

Created in partnership with agency /prompt, the campaign saw the brand celebrating real friends and gameday traditions, centering around a “Tailgate Throwdown” contest inviting audiences to share ideas for a dream tailgate party for a chance to bring it to life. This initiative saw the brand co-creating alongside fans, including finalists pitching their ideas on camera to  judges NFL star Mark Ingram II, actor Joel McHale and Dallas Cowboys' Chef Hoppie, before bringing the contest winner’s idea to life at an Alabama vs. Chattanooga game.

CPG Insider caught up with Heineken USA CMO Jonnie Cahill and Craig Elimeliah, CCO at /prompt, to discuss the campaign strategy.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

CPG Insider:How would you describe the audience Dos Equis was trying to reach with this campaign? What makes college football a particularly fruitful marketing opportunity for the brand?

Jonnie Cahill: The goal was to reach our core Sunbelt audience of passionate younger adults, aged 21-34, including women and multiethnic consumers, with a shared passion for college football.

College football represents the epitome of igniting passion, friendships, and joy, especially around a Saturday tailgate – 33% of people don’t even go into the game, they just like to tailgate. We saw the metrics on college football’s popularity increasing with an ever more diverse audience, and have a massive footprint across the Sunbelt region, where college football dominates Saturdays all season long. It provides us with an opportunity to engage with them on a whole new level.

CPG Insider:What insights drove the campaign? What can you share about what to expect from the brand in 2024?

Cahill: We recognized that friends celebrating together at game day tailgates was at the epicenter of college football, which was driving insight. It was important for the brand to celebrate talent in all forms.This campaign brought the brand directly to consumers. It’s one thing to know and recognize the brand but another to interact, engage and celebrate with it.

We were also excited by the geographical shift, with a significant step up in local key media markets in the Sun Belt region. As the region grows, there’s been a demographic change with an influx of consumers that highly index towards Dos Equis and are equally passionate about college football. The brand will continue to invest more in those states as they’ve also been an area of market strength for the brand – given the warm climate, Mexican heritage and a variety of passion points.

In 2024, we’ll be making a significant increase in our total marketing spend, by about 20%, with a strong investment in broadcast, linear TV, increase in digital and more direct to consumer communications. We’ll continue to activate around college football and experiential festivals such as the Albuquerque Balloon Festival.

CPG Insider:How did an understanding of the evolving nature of sports fandom inform the campaign’s creative approach?

Craig Elimeliah: For a long time, sports was not very inclusive. We wanted to connect with younger, diverse, highly engaged audiences drawn not just to sports, but the fusion of sports, culture and business. That allowed us to bring more people in, and challenge ourselves on how to utilize Dos Equis as a storymaking platform tapping into the cultural relevance of college football to build lasting affinity for the brand.

Can you speak to the importance of co-creation and audience participation in the campaign? How might it inform other sports marketing efforts?

Elimeliah: Not every brand invites customers in to help co-create. We felt this was an opportunity to do that and advocate for an innovative approach in transforming traditional sports marketing into a more dynamic cultural conversation.

There’s definitely a sports marketing playbook. We ran a different playbook, centering the cultural conversation that attracts audiences on and off the field. I think this can be a blueprint for how brands can create culturally relevant sports marketing campaigns.

How important a role will co-creation alongside fans, and user-generated content, play in marketing’s future?

Elimeliah: I do really believe brands will be inviting consumers to co-create with them more. Engaging in storymaking versus storytelling is something you have to do with consumers. People want to be part of that story and want stories of their own to tell. Consumers are already making their own content.

You have to lean into that behavior. They’re creating content, so why wouldn’t you want to create with them?


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