Social Success & Shoe Sale Sexism: Heineken’s CL Story

While the Lisbon-based, all Madrid final saw Heineken successfully round-off its umbrella global ‘Share The Sofa’ 2014 Champions League initiative, many headlines shifted from settee to shoes as critics poured scorn on its Brazilian sexist sale stunt.


Local Champions League activation in the World Cup host nation saw UEFA partner Heineken link with Brazilian shoe store Shoestock on a campaign offering women 50% discounts off shoes brought during the 90 minutes of the game.


Heineken Brazil’s self-confessed tactic was crystal clear from the campaign’s creative – it aimed to Brazil’s women with footwear retail therapy so that men could watch the match in peace.


The campaign, developed by agency Wieden+Kennedy São Paulo, was led by a web film promoting the shoe sale posted on Heineken’s Brazilian YouTube page



‘Our goal is to run a fun campaign unlike anything we have ever organized in Brazil,’ explained Bernardo Spielmann, director of the Heineken brand and sponsorships at Heineken Brazil.


‘Therefore, the Heineken Shoe Sale will be announced with a humorous tone in the digital environment, including teasers, email marketing and videos.’


‘The idea is to help guarantee men time to watch the game on Saturday afternoon,’ commented Wieden + Kennedy creative director Otavio Schiavon.


‘So we’re going to provide an argument that will make it so their wives or girlfriends have something interesting to do during the game. He’s going to surprise her with news about a shoe sale. And she, in turn, can leave him to watch the UEFA Champions League final.’


Heineken Brazil is reported to have issued a press release aimed at reassuring the public that the shoe sale shopping stunt was ‘entirely good-natured’ and designed simply to ‘generate conversation’.


But, in a week during which Premiership CEO Richard Scudamore’s email fiasco shone the spotlight on tasteless sexism in football, much of the world’s media and web comment wasn’t buying into Heineken’s stance.



The Brazilian local market stunt distracted some media attention away from Heineken’s more successful and innovative Champions League activation initiatives – such as ‘Share The Sofa’ which generated significant interest and engagement in several key markets.



This social activation strand, which ran parallel to Heineken’s ‘Road To the Final’ advertising and experiential initiative which ran internationally,



saw the beer brand focus on popular social platforms such as Twitter and YouTube to engage via quality, football-relevant, real time content through this year’s competition (see case study).


For the Atlético versus Real final, Heineken and agency Tribal Worldwide Amsterdam, introduced two team-relevant former players – ex real Madrid striker Fernando Morientes and former Atletico attacker Luis Garcia – to the sofa.


Morientes had previously been part of the campaign during the league and knock out stages of the tournament.



The two ambassadors watched the final live and engaged with fans via tweets, photos and vine videos in real time as the action unfolded.


Furthermore, tweets from the campaign were also pushed into banner ads on sports sites around the final, while some 30,000 visitors to Heineken Champions League Final screening parties around the world also interacted with one another through the channels.


Heineken was one of several UEFA Champions League sponsors (others included Adidas) to set up digital newsrooms producing real time, reactionary content tying up their marketing efforts across TV, experiential and online platforms.


‘We have an in-house team that works as a command centre for our social media work in all Heineken’s markets. For “Share the Sofa” we have a social command centre that will travel to Ibiza for the final that will implement the real-time activation,’ explained Heineken’s global head of digital Paul Smailes.


‘We’re focused on driving real-time relevancy with fans by turning that association the brand has with the event into passion points. We’ve become more sophisticated in how we use real-time listening tools to engage with fans and target those with the biggest and most influential networks.’’


The beer brand also activated across other social media channels through the tournament – including its US-led Foursquare which asked beer lovers and footie fans to pledge their club allegiance via their Foursquare accounts (and enter a competition to win VIP trip to CL games.


The ‘Match Your Half Ticket’ campaign, which also offered US fans daily instant wins via the platform’s check-in medium, saw more than 125,000 people sign up.




The world’s biggest annual global sporting event, which, with more than 220 million viewers, racks up a bigger TV audience  around the planet than the Super Bowl and the NBA Finals combined, is the last place a brand wants to run any kind of sexist, old school local market stunt.


Even if one is generous enough to factor in any claims to humorous intentions and/or a different local market perspective and culture.


With so many people and so many media outlets covering every aspect of the match, the potential for backlash is huge.


Which is in some ways a shame, as so much of Heineken 2014 Champions League work has been innovative and original and at the cutting edge of contemporary sponsorship activation.


Indeed ‘Share The Sofa’ is a fine example of sponsor activation that focuses on quality engagement rather than click and retweet volume and shows how brands can engage, add value and enhance experiences live.




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