Global Brand Director, Anuraag Trikha, tells Laura Swinton why Heineken’s Champions League campaign proves that football fans love cats
“So far, I think the wisdom of the crowds seems to suggest that people focus on the good stuff and not the bad stuff. I think we are inherently good.”
Heineken’s current activation around the UEFA Champions’ League has given the Global Brand Director, Anuraag Trikha, a rather upbeat assessment of humanity. ‘The World’s Most Shared Moments’ is an experiment whereby the brand is monitoring social media buzz around the tournament to find out which match moments are getting fans talking – and they’re sharing those insights in rapid turnaround videos on Instagram stories and Facebook Carousel. Essentially, they’ve turned the world’s football fans into a hivemind of pundits… and it’s the sort of real-time, unpredictable project that gets marketers nervous. Thus far, however, that bravery is paying off.
“I think rivalry, racism, the dark side of the sport and the dark side of humanity doesn’t show up in the world’s ‘most-shared’ moments,” says Anuraag. “So, in a funny way, the idea itself self-selects.”
The whole campaign is, according to Anuraag, a project that shows just how valuable data can be when creatively deployed. “This is all about data,” he says. “It’s about being able to take the data of people’s sentiment and then give something back to them which is valuable and beyond data. And also I think it creates a sense of community around Heineken and football.”
So how does it work? For ‘The World’s Most Shared Moments’, Heineken have partnered with NetBase, a social listening service who are monitoring channels and forums during the Champions League matches. They, then, send their insights to Heineken and digital agency Poke, who use the insight to edit together ‘moments’ and package them up with a layer of auto-generated emojis. Individual Heineken markets around the world can translate the text and quickly version films before feeding them out to local fans. The whole process takes about six hours.
And it’s a process that allows Heineken to tap into the unexpected moments that are truly resonating with fans… and it’s not limited to impressive goals and set-pieces. Two weeks ago a rather confident ginger tomcat swaggered onto the pitch during the Bayern Munich v. Besiktas match in Turkey – fans were loving it and the Heineken team were more than happy to include it in their round-up content.
Cat-gate is the perfect encapsulation of what Anuraag describes as ‘moment marketing’. Marketing that responds to ‘moments’ in a way that’s relevant, unique and universal… and fast. “I think we’ve just started to scratch the surface in moment marketing, which is about a certain moment in time where the world reacts. If you can be part of that moment in a relevant way, in a way where the brand has role, you get traction. It’s more valuable than making a five million dollar ad. That’s the old world. I think that’s the first thing we’ll learn from this - that moment marketing is here to stay and you have to be good at it,” he says.
This idea of ‘unique and universal’ is something that should be ‘the new mantra that every new marketing kid on the block has to learn’.
As Global Brand Director, Anuraag is also enthused about just how scalable yet tweak-able the campaign is. For now, the campaign is running in 43 markets – from Algeria to Vietnam – but the backend process has been developed in such a way that other markets can easily pick it up. “The momentum is building with enough support from markets like Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Sweden, and the UK, of course. The moment you have something so real-time and so real and it’s so easy to use – it’s plug in and play – markets want to get involved. We have a history of more than 100 markets activating around the Champion’s League in any given season, so this is 40 and counting. I’m hoping by the time we get to the final we have more than 100 markets running this.”
So, the campaign seems to be getting fans hyped and giving them a voice as well as allowing the Heineken team to explore new ways of working in real time. But this isn’t just about playing with new toys, it’s underpinned by precision insights as well as the broader brand strategy.
Over the past few years, the team have been building up a platform for their UEFA sponsorship around the idea of ‘Share the Drama’. And that, in turn, is driven by the insight that about 80% of the audience watch the matches alone because the tournament is more of a weekday than weekend competition. The hope behind activities like ‘The World’s Most Shared Moments’ is that it will encourage fans to experience the excitement of sharing with the online community. But while the Tuesday and Wednesday fixtures might prove a challenge, there’s still lots of opportunity for a brand like Heineken.
“It’s a weekday sport, not a weekend sport. There’s more of a propensity to watch it alone,” explains Anuraag, who notes that fan behaviour is also changing in other ways. “I think the change is that people are second screening a lot more than they used to and that, I think, is the opportunity for us to engage with them beyond watching it alone. With the shared sentiment and emotion and all the technology available today in terms of video and Skype and what not there is a lot more to be done in trying to create a shared sense of excitement, even though you might be alone. While the ultimate goal is to get people out of their solitary watching behaviour to make it more communal I think if you go a step before that and create a sense of shared excitement around it and be part of that I think it’s no bad thing.”
The strategy might be down pat, but one thing that Anuraag admits he was concerned about was the level of craft possible in such a real-time endeavour. After all, Heineken’s traditional advertising is known for its level of creativity and polish. The answer to striking that balance between craft and speed lay in preparation, and the brand and agency created some highly crafted ‘bookends’ and emoji filters into which the footage, shot by the trusted UEFA camera team, could fit.
“That combination of the bookends, partner quality assurance and a lens on top that gives you a sense of lightness which is controllable by us allows us to balance real time with craft. You have to almost control for the quality of the lens and let the real time stuff play out. You get the best camera to point at reality, it will probably look pretty good,” he says, before adding with a twinkle, “…And then there is something to be said for a certain sense of rawness… A little bit of dust in the air is not a bad thing to have, as it feels more authentic.”
‘The World’s Most Shared Moment’ is set to continue until this Champions League Final on May 26th. But it’s unlikely to be the last we see of the activation. Heineken is a big sports supporter, and Anuraag suspects that the lessons learned from the UEFA activity will inform fan engagements for Formula One and perhaps even the Rugby World Cup. Whether or not it ends up being transferred over wholesale or tweaked and adapted remains to be seen but the nature of the project means that there’s lots of data to monitor and analyse.
“Once you’ve cracked the formula and you create a technology back end, you know what the end game is. There’s so much more you can do with it and it becomes a scalable thing,” says Anuraag.
The results are still coming in and there’s another two months until the campaign runs its course, so there’s likely to be many specific lessons to learn in terms of timings and processes and effectiveness. But in the meantime, Anuraag is happy to have learned the most important insight of them all: that, by and large, the world’s football fans ain’t such a bad bunch.