For Heineken, the world’s most recognizable international brewer with over 250 brands in 70 countries, there is no shortage in variety when it comes to creativity. In the past two years, the brand’s international push toward promoting a sense of community and responsible drinking habits has resulted in an array of boundary-pushing activations.
As my research has uncovered, a focal point of these innovations has been in art and fashion — and in the interconnectedness and cultural relevance of the two. In leveraging both platforms, Heineken has cultivated experiences with its consumers and promoted itself as being #freshAF in the process.
From street art to couture (and to street-inspired couture), here’s a look at some of the most exciting sponsorships and activations Heineken has recently pursued around the world.
AFRICA — Lagos, Nigeria: Heineken Lagos Fashion & Design Week 2016
This October marked Heineken’s second year as the headlining sponsor of Heineken Lagos Fashion & Design Week. Spanning four days, the connecting-the-dots-themed LFDW2016 aimed to further push the boundaries in creating innovative designs and experiences.
Although Nigeria’s fashion industry is said to still be in its development stage with fashion accounting for 0.48% of the country’s GDP, Lagos is expected to become a fashion powerhouse. A city with a love for glamor and vibrant design, Lagos’s fashion scene has garnered international attention with Michelle Obama wearing Duro Olowu, a budding Nigerian designer.
Heineken also sponsored the official after-party of LFDW2016, an event infused with art and technology. Guests were able to control playlists by performers, which included T-Pain and popular Nigerian rappers, from their Heineken-branded wristbands.
As part of Heineken’s “Share Your City” campaign, the premium beer brand is helping to grow the platform that over the years has accelerated Lagos’s fashion scene. Likewise, in sponsoring LFDW2016, Heineken is establishing that the business of fashion is one with far reaching economic and social impacts on a country — powerfully demonstrating how positive these impacts can be.
OCEANIA — Auckland, New Zealand: Heineken Light Club (2015)
In September 2015, to celebrate the launch of Heineken Light into the New Zealand market, Heineken came together with Saatchi & Saatchi NZ, Darkhorse and leading design collective SquidSoup to create a giant mirror cube in downtown Auckland. Inside the cube, an immersive space was created for locals, art-enthusiasts and bar-goers alike to try the new Heineken Light brand.
A triumph of art and technology, SquidSoup’s interactive light and sound installation changed as visitors moved through the installation in response to individuals and their bottle of Heineken Light.
Keeping with Heineken’s theme of promoting community, the installation’s interactive sound element also saw a collaboration with local New Zealand artists Sweet Mix Kids.
NORTH AMERICA — KITH NYC and other trendsetting retailers in the U.S., 2015
The #Heineken100 campaign, back for its sixth year in August 2015, saw the premium brewery launch collaborations with five trendsetting mens retailers across the U.S. Working with sophisticated streetwear stores KITH NYC, Union Los Angeles, Chicago’s RSVP Gallery, Alchemist Miami, and Concepts in Boston, Heineken co-designed an exclusive custom product with each store.
A coveted influencer campaign, Heineken describes its #Heineken100 initiative as an exclusive product collaboration and seeding program that celebrates Heineken’s uber-influential consumers. As Sidewalk Hustle has pointed out, the 100 influencers are meant to represent Heineken’s “man of the world.”
Trendy, invite-only parties accompanied each collaboration’s release, where neon lights glowed and emerging deejays played. The exclusive items, which were only given to the 100 influencers and five lucky attendees-turned-winners, would come to be seen by hundreds of thousands on social media or media outlets of the High Snobiety and Hype Beast variety.
KITH NYC saw the first installation of 2015’s #Heineken100 campaign with the release of a custom basics set. In an interview about the project produced by Team Epiphany, KITH NYC founder Ronnie Flag pointed to a goal of the collaboration: “We want to be as iconic as Heineken is.”
Miami, Art Basel 2015 and “Cities” 2016
Resting beside Miami’s picturesque turquoise water in Virginia Key are the graffiti-clad ruins of Miami Marine Stadium. Once home to motor races and concerts, the stadium was devastated by Hurricane Andrew 1992 and has been out of use since.
In September, Heineken and Publicis New York pioneered a crowdfunding project — titled “Cities” — with Indiegogo and the National Trust for Historic Preservation to preserve the one-of-its-kind boat-racing venue. Working with ten local artists, Heineken created a stop motion animation film to highlight the incredible graffiti that currently decorates the neglected stadium. Because the graffiti has an uncertain future amidst talks of restoration plans, Heineken made the film to let the art live on forever. Images were also sent to Google Maps to ensure the graffiti’s eternity.
Notably, “Cities” marks Heineken’s second time promoting street art in Miami in the past two years.
For Art Basel 2015, the premium beer brand created their Heineken Mobile Art Experience with Montana Cans, where a traveling truck and pop-up art supply store visited Basel-related events in Wynwood and South Beach. Spectators immersed in live sessions and were invited to create works of art in real-time on the truck’s exterior.
An aerial drone followed around the traveling truck and pop-up art supply store and generated social media coverage via #HeinekenXMontana.
EUROPE – Budapest, Hungary: Central European Fashion Days and Budapest Design Week 2014
In November 2014, with the special guest of Budapest Design Week being the Netherlands, and the event coinciding with Central European Fashion Days, Heineken was presented the perfect opportunity to demonstrate its devotion to design while strengthening local relevance.
Continuing their “Open Your City” campaign, Heineken created a pop up store with Budapest-based visual artist Miklos Kiss for the contestants of the Central European Fashion Days contestants to display their apparel and accessories.
Considering how the aim of the “Open Your City” campaign is to help people discover new and less frequented parts of their cities, Heineken and Miklos Kiss achieved this in the very location of the pop-up store, deciding upon a building under construction to house the installation. The structure created was nothing short of extraordinary; its style emulated the iconic ruin pubs of Budapest and contemporary Dutch design.
A case study from agency ACG Budapest describes how at the onset of the collaboration, Heineken was considered the most aspirational beer brand on the Hungarian market; however, it was struggling to get close to urban youngsters looking for local values. The CEFD pop-up store looked to and, ultimately, helped change this. During Central European Fashion Days and Budapest Design Week, the Heineken x CEFD pop-up store became one of the sweet spots of the events — sponsoring a pop-up bar and hosting several workshops as well as many upcoming talents from the region.
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When it comes to Heineken’s “Open Your World” slogan, the brand certainly is practicing what it preaches. Through sponsoring immersive experiences in art and fashion, Heineken is continuing to forge powerful connections with consumers while promoting culture.
A chronology of Heineken’s art and fashion pursuits in pictures: