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Brand Insight

Why Strongbow and MTV Are Going Back to University

Heineken cider brand director Emma Sherwood-Smith explains the rationale behind their branded reality show ‘Re-Freshers Week’

Why Strongbow and MTV Are Going Back to University

Strongbow and MTV recently commissioned a new competitive reality show, produced by Viacom’s Elephant House Studios, that will transport participants back to the glory days of being a fresher. 
 
‘Re-Freshers Week Presented by Strongbow’, which is slated to launch later this year, will feature a group of eight 25- to 30-year olds who are seeking to recapture the joys and freedom of being a fresher at university. Living together in a student house, the contestants will compete in freshers-week inspired tasks, brought to them by different guest judges, in true reality TV style.
 
The five 60-minute episodes will be overseen by a host, with one lucky winner scooping a cash prize - giving them the opportunity to ‘refresh their own life’. 

To find out why Strongbow made this interesting move in branded content, LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with Emma Sherwood-Smith, cider brand director at Heineken.

LBB> Where did the idea for ‘Re-Freshers Week’ come from?

ESS> Strongbow is the UK’s most popular cider which means we always look to break ground and convention when it comes to our marketing and execution.

A partnership with MTV not only provides us with significant content but it brings our brand idea to life by giving people permission to let loose a little and be a little freer - just as we all did when the pressures of ‘adulting’ was a concept far in the future. We got to live with brand new people, make our own life choices, try stuff out for the first time, but also learn the skills that would set us up for the real world. 

Strongbow was the cider of choice throughout this major life change – and we wanted to give people the opportunity to relive these freedom years and break free from their daily routines one more incredible time! 
 
LBB> Strategically, what are Strongbow's aims with this new show?

ESS> We are creating something really different here which is going to reach consumers in a completely different way to conventional ATL campaigns. The show will bring Strongbow’s brand idea to life – reawaken the joy of and freedom before the pressures of real life got in the way.  

In addition, given Strongbow’s fame, it’s important that the brand is visible to consumers in a variety of channels during key periods. So we will be activating heavily at festivals and on-pack to support, we’ll have a significant digital presence throughout the summer, there’ll be a focus on trade activations such as the launch of the five -litre mini keg for supermarkets and our dual font for Strongbow and Strongbow Dark Fruit in pubs.

LBB> Why is the 25 to 30 demographic so important for you to target?

ESS> Strongbow is the UK’s favourite cider, and the majority of our consumers will have first enjoyed it when they went started their first proper job or went into further education. This is a campaign that spurs memories, brings to life dormant feelings of freedom and no stress, and, we hope, will make people feel positive about life.

LBB> What does this new move represent for the Strongbow brand and the direction it's moving in more broadly?

ESS> As the number one cider brand, we want to recruit consumers of all ages and experiences and we feel that playing on nostalgia and good memories is a common denominator. Everyone has their own story and can make ‘Re-Freshers’ their own.

LBB> How did you select the contestants?

ESS> Just as uni brought people from all walks of life together, that’s exactly what we’ve done for the show. They will all have different experiences and life events that will make for great TV when you put them all in a house together.

All aged between 25 and 30, some will have entered further education and look back on those days with fond memories. Others may have gone straight into full-time jobs and wonder what they have missed. 

LBB> Why did you decide to partner with MTV and what part will they play?

ESS> MTV fits the demographic we want to reach with this campaign. We also know they’re experts in creating TV that inspires, gets people talking, and, above all, is fun. Having produced some of the classic shows we all know and love from that period in our lives, they are the cultural home of the millennial generation and the perfect entertainment partner. 

LBB> What are your hopes for the campaign moving forward?

ESS> This is the first time we’ve run a brand campaign like this so it’s really exciting to see what happens.  We expect our ‘Re-Freshers’ will get quite the response from the viewers and that it will inspire people to act a little freer in their spare time. Embrace new things and meet up with friends you’ve lost touch with! 

LBB> As a bit of an aside, I'm interested in the way Strongbow is marketed drastically differently in the UK to in practically all other markets. What is the main reason for that?

ESS> Unlike us, the rest of the world have only just been introduced to the super refreshing taste of Strongbow.  We have been enjoying it for the last forty years, and it has been the cider of choice for millions of people.  

It’s clear that in a mature market like the UK, of course, it is marketed differently to countries where a cider category is only just being established.