How is the Rugby World Cup working out for Heineken? - Interview, Heineken's global activation director, Hans Erik Tuijt

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The Rugby World Cup is just over one week old and the event is dominating the television, radio and newspapers here in the UK. As one of the event's headline sponsors, Heineken hopes that this level of interest will continue, right through to the final on 31 October. Earlier today, just-drinks spoke to Heineken's global activation director, Hans Erik Tuijt, about the brewer's activities in and around the tournament, the balance of power between television and digital marketing and whether the host nation's continued presence in the event actually matters.

Since joining Heineken in 1988, Hans Erik Tuijt has moved up to become the brewers  global activation director

Since joining Heineken in 1988, Hans Erik Tuijt has moved up to become the brewer's global activation director

just-drinks: We'd hoped to speak to you last week, but the call was rescheduled. Been anywhere nice?

Hans Erik Tujit: I was in Brazil where I had some work to do on our partnership with Rock in Rio and we were looking at the Olympics for our Heineken House activation.

j-d: We're barely a week into this year's Rugby World Cup. How's it going for Heineken?

HET: We're enjoying the unpredictability of rugby, which is an aspect of the game that we had made part of our campaign. And, it's coming true in this tournament. I really think it's living up to expectations, we've got full stadiums and a great atmosphere.

j-d: Heineken has been a sponsor of this tournament since 1995, with a break in 1999. How has brand activation changed in that time?

HET: Lots of things have changed. We came from a traditional association that you have some boarding around the pitches and maybe a little bit of international television. But, the world has got smaller. Today, we have a global ad that runs in all the rugby-playing territories, but this is backed up by a strong digital programme. We're working to be part of a conversation that in 1995 was non-existent.

j-d: How easy is it to manage the activation nowadays? A lot of it seems to be out of the brand owner's control.

HET: Of course. Everybody has an opinion these days. However, we want to be part of the conversation. We're a premium beer sponsoring a premium event. We want people to talk about it, and we facilitate that through things like our weekly rugby show. It's good that people talk about it and it would be boring if we wanted to control it. That's the reality of life today, as well.

j-d: That sounds like it's become much more labour-intensive.

HET: Yes, of course. In 1995, when you'd signed the contract and the boards were there and your television advert was running, then that was it. Now, during the tournament, things happen that you need to monitor. You always need to be proactive and make sure you are showing interest and are part of the conversation. You're talking about the passion of these people, so if you don't connect with what they're saying, you're not part of the conversation.

j-d: The prominent role of television advertising within the full marketing mix appears to have changed.

HET: We've been hearing these stories that television advertising has had its day. I have a different opinion. I don't think it would be the right thing to pull out of television. People are still consuming television and you need to be there - I don't think it's going to die soon. It will change dramatically, sure, but I do think you need to come up with more interesting adverts that people want to see. You can't just think: "I'll interrupt you when I please and I'll bore you with my message." If you are interrupting, then people need to believe that it is with something worth being interrupted by.

We've seen for quite some years that the spend around Heineken brand has gone more on digital. You have to do both. There are so many different touch-points, though, so the marketing plan will detail when it is relevant to talk to your consumer. We spend a considerable amount nowadays on being digitally active.

j-d: With that increased digital spend, where has the decrease had to come?

HET: That would be television. We still spend quite a large amount on traditional TV commercials, but we are spending increasingly within the digital space as well.

j-d: Heineken's campaigns seem to operate at a very global level - how are these cues tweaked within markets?

HET: In each market, we look at our outcomes and then the campaign can be activated differently to make sure we get the same take-out. I don't believe you can say that one size fits all. What I do believe is that the take-outs should be the same, but the message to get there can be different. That's what we do with Champions League and Rugby World Cup. That is the way to go forward.

In Heineken, we call it 'local top-spin'. We should always be consistent, we can't really have a different image of our brand in China than in Australia, than in Africa than in the US. So, the take-out has to be the same. The way I describe it is, if everyone starts to play with the ball, the rugby players will want the ball to go over the bar while the footballers want it under the bar. You need to be clear what the rules are but, within those rules, you can be creative.

j-d: How do you connect with that growing army of consumers who are keener on localisation rather than globalisation?

HET: Our increase in digital spend shows how keen we are to keep the conversation going with Millenials around the world. If you look at the Champions League, we have match activities that run alongside watching the game. That is something we should all learn. I'm not saying we've got it right, we will make mistakes, but we will get better at keeping conversations with Millenials going.

We've tried for a few years to get the balance right during the matches. We create our own events where club legends are talking in a more social way on a second screen, while people are watching the match. This has proved extremely successful - we're reaching around 150m people during each match in a totally different way to the traditional television way. We're trying to do the same now with the Rugby World Cup, where we create another conversation.

j-d: What is the definition of success for your activations?

HET: Before you start, you always need to run a zero measurement. We want to make sure we have sold and delivered the right amount of beer to everybody during the tournament. Then, we want to make sure that the promotions we ran around the world have delivered the upscale in volumes that we planned. On top of that, we measure the effect the event had on people who were part of our CR (corporate responsibility) activation, and finally, in the digital conversation, we've set ourselves some goals regarding how many people we want to reach and engage with. Those are the metrics we look at. Most importantly, we want to be the most recognised sponsor of the World Cup. These metrics are monitored throughout the tournament.

So far, we're doing very well, we've had very few complaints. In the UK, we've had great activations at many of the large supermarkets - the same is true in Australia, South Africa and Ireland. Our digital monitoring also suggests we are on track to make our targets in that area.

j-d: With England losing at the weekend, the host nation's tournament future looks somewhat precarious. What damage would there be for Heineken if the host nation does not progress beyond the group stage?

HET: We're a global brand, so there will always be relevant markets for us represented in the knock-out stages. It would be a shame to lose as rugby-mad a market as England: The number of viewers in the UK will dramatically drop if they're knocked out. We'd like to see England do well.

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