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How Mike’s Hard Lemonade Launched in LATAM By Infiltrating Beer Ads



LBB’s Ben Conway speaks to Caitlin Partridge, global marketing director at Mike’s and Alexandre Abrantes, group creative director at FCB NY, about how the ready-to-go drink brand caused a stir through cameos in AB InBev beer marketing

How Mike’s Hard Lemonade Launched in LATAM By Infiltrating Beer Ads

Beer is far and away the drink of choice for young people in Latin America – over six times more popular than any other. Whether it be gathering for a celebration, a barbecue or a drink after work, no other beverage comes close to the ever-popular cerveza.

Utilising this insight, ready-to-go drink brand Mike’s decided to join forces with AB InBev beer brands, rather than compete with the goliath. The creative teams at Mike’s and FCB's New York and Brazil offices worked together to put Mike’s Hard Lemonade products in ads for the beer brands, including Budweiser and Brahma. Sharing sets for the beer’s TV spots, FCB and Mike’s also produced their own TV ads that ran back-to-back with the beer ads, highlighting the collaboration and attracting people who don’t enjoy beer to try something new.

Speaking to LBB’s Ben Conway, Caitlin Partridge, global marketing director at Mike’s and Alexandre Abrantes, group creative director at FCB NY discuss how they coordinated such a large-scale collaboration and the challenges they overcame to achieve it.

LBB> Where did the initial creative spark for the campaign come from?

Caitlin> The idea came from Mike’s reason-to-be: beer has always been the go-to drink whenever young people of legal drinking age are getting together. That said, people are also open to new options. In fact, according to our own study, over 20% of drinkers around the world prefer sweet, fruity and flavorful drinks.

FCB has been the global creative agency for Mike’s since 2020. They helped to define the global positioning and developed the initial pilot launch campaign. This campaign requires a lot of coordination with the local brand teams – not just Mike’s, but also the beer brands – and their agencies. So, the process was incredibly collaborative.

Alexandre> What we love about this campaign is that it’s based on a true insight. It is a beer world out there. People say ‘let’s grab a beer’ when it comes to meeting people, especially with a younger demographic. When friends get together, everyone brings beer. To a barbecue, to a house party, it’s just what people do. And that’s even stronger in South America, where beer consumption is 660% higher than any other drink.

That said, as we aim to reach more consumers on more occasions, we wanted to showcase Mike’s as an option for some of these moments.

LBB> What is Mike’s brand messaging right now? And how does this campaign follow, communicate and progress that branding? 

Caitlin> In launching Mike’s in these new countries, we were initially focused on educating consumers on what the product was – lemonade + vodka. Landing that educational message is still important in the context of this campaign, but now we are aiming to build more meaning and closer connections in the lives of our target consumer by establishing Mike’s role in the main social occasions where friends are getting together and needing more drink options.


LBB> Beer is the drink of choice in Latin America - so how did you decide on the best approach to enter and compete in this market? 

Caitlin> In initial concept testing, we learned that Latin American consumers did not appreciate communications where brands challenged other brands or categories. Besides, we didn’t want beer drinkers to switch from beer, we wanted to speak to our tribe of non-beer lovers. That’s where we realised we didn’t have to go against beer, we could partner with beer brands that are also trying to speak to this audience as well.

Alexandre> Gen z are six times more likely to try new kinds of drinks. So we aren’t really ‘competing’ so much as bringing more options to a population of legal drinking age that is already craving it. We wanted to show that wherever beer goes, Mike’s can go too.

LBB> Sharing production time and sets is quite the ask – so how did you get AB InBev beer brands to agree and buy into the idea? 

Alexandre> It was challenging at first. Think about it, you’re there, minding your own business and then this brand that’s new to your country and that has probably a different agency partner than yours knocks on your door and says ‘hi, we’d love to put our product in your spots’.

But this is the kind of idea that only AB InBev could do. Truthfully. To understand the industry holistically, to prove the power of their brands locally and globally. To have the vision that this could be good for Mike’s, of course, but also for beer.

Caitlin> The idea made me anxious the moment the FCB team presented the idea. But, that’s how I knew we had to do it. Only a brand like Mike’s, in a company like AB InBev, could do something like this. It wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of the local Mike’s teams and the support of our local marketing leadership. And, as I began presenting the idea, they all saw that the idea was based on a true insight, and that’s why it would work.

To address the logistical challenges of joining the beer brand’s productions, we structured our films to be as unobtrusive as possible. Each film’s script followed the same structure, so they were quick to turn around and write – so that we were ready to go whenever the beer brands would let us in. And, we kept that structure very simple – just one shot, our actor speaking straight to the camera. Besides, that was the best way to deliver the message we wanted to anyways. Simple and to the point.

Having a Mike’s can in the background of the beer brand’s ads – the whole idea was for it to be an Easter Egg: noticeable, but just barely. We made sure to work with the beer brand’s scripts to find a moment to insert Mike’s without being disruptive to their advertising needs.

LBB> The campaign also included digital and social media marketing, as well as OOH and POS elements – what was it like creating a campaign of this scale, and one that spanned across many AB InBev brands? 

Caitlin> Across two markets, we had 18 agencies and 14 beer brands involved. The local brand teams were the heroes coordinating it all, along with our very collaborative agency partners and our in-house agency draftLine’s media and commercial teams.

One thing that has been so great about the campaign idea is that it’s been a springboard for new ideas. As a new brand in these markets, Mike’s is a challenger brand, but with this campaign, we didn’t have to challenge beer, instead, we leveraged the power of partnerships to help increase our reach.

Alexandre> It’s such a simple message: we’re not going after beer, we’re tagging along. We wanted to show our target that wherever beer goes, Mike’s can go too. So we couldn’t just stay within TV commercials, we had to walk the walk. And go everywhere beer was. 

I love how simple the premise is. And yet, how bold it is at the same time. To put our product within other products’ ads. And to shoot our spot using their own production. I guess I love it because it brought to ad world what already happens in real life. Nobody goes to a bar and drinks the exact same beer. Or to a pool party. Or a barbecue. Some people drink beer, other people want to drink something else. And that’s OK.

LBB> How was the production process? Were you on set for the shoots?

Caitlin> I was not on set for the shoots. We’ve become so adept at remote shoots, that I was able to follow along via WhatsApp. Besides, we wanted to limit the number of people from the Mike’s brand on set to minimise our disruption in the beer brands’ shooting. The local brand managers were there managing the process, while myself and the FCB team followed along and gave direction via WhatsApp. It limited our control just a bit, but because our portion of the shoot was so simple and everything was well planned ahead of time, it worked. 


LBB> How did you develop the idea of running the TV spots back-to-back? Was this a challenge to organise?

Caitlin> We wanted to ensure that at least a subset of our audience saw the full story in order to really nail the point. We wanted them to see that Mike’s was really in the TV commercials, not just making our own version of them. If the beer spots on their own media plans and the mike’s spots ran separately, there was no guarantee that the two audiences would make the connection. That’s where the idea of running the TV spots back-to-back came about. Media coordination was really important. At the same time though, we made sure that the two spots could also stand on their own.

LBB> Why do you think the beer brands (as well as Mike’s) saw such positive feedback and return on adspend for this campaign? 

Alexandre> The reception was amazing. In such a short time we’ve already achieved amazing results. For example, Mike’s is the #2 RTD in Colombia, the first country to air our campaign. But more importantly, it was incremental to beer – we didn’t cannibalise sales of the brands we partnered with. Which proved our point that we were not going after beer drinkers, but their friends who didn’t want to drink beer in the first place.

Caitlin> The campaign is based on a true insight. Everyone has a friend - or is that friend - who doesn’t like beer. The young legal drinking age consumers appreciate when brands are transparent and direct. This is a very self-aware campaign and I think they appreciate that from brands.

LBB> Is this brand collaboration/sharing adspace concept something that will inspire future FCB and Mike’s marketing projects? 

Alexandre> As long as it’s based on true insights and it’s on the right strategy, I don’t see why not. There’s not one way of doing things. It’s not having a crazy idea for the sake of being splashy. Its creativity is used to drive business.

Caitlin> Yes, I believe that this can be our core creative idea for a long time for three reasons. First – providing a sweet drink in the main social occasions for consumers, making the moment more inclusive for those who don’t love beer, is the fundamental job-to-be-done for Mike’s. Second – for a small brand that’s looking to grow quickly, partnerships are an incredibly valuable tool in accelerating reach and awareness. Finally, I see that there are countless ways this could extend creatively. We’re preparing to launch the campaign in Peru and then Paraguay. Next, now that we’ve highlighted the insight, we will go a bit deeper into specific occasions and passion points – like barbecue and soccer.


LBB> What was the hardest challenge you faced on this project - and how did you overcome it?


Caitlin> The biggest, most important, challenge was leveraging the strength of the beer brands in the world’s leading brewer to help a non-beer brand grow. The fact that beyond beer is a key lever of our commercial strategy to lead and grow the category helped. Further, I took an approach that, first, the campaign was based on a true human insight and, secondly, having that data that showed that Mike’s is highly incremental to our beer business and aligned with our commercial strategy

Alexandre> I’d say that the hardest challenge was communicating, as a beer company, that this campaign could be a win-win. It’s about offering options to consumers: Mike's and beer. 

Luckily FCB has a history of making ‘how the hell did they do this?’ kind of ideas – like Michelob ULTRA’s ‘McEnroe vs McEnroe’ and ‘Courtside’, and of course ‘Whopper Detour’. Those are all ideas that not only created a buzz in the industry, but brought business results to our clients. So that helps when you bring a ‘crazy’ idea like Mike’s in a beer world.

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FCB New York, Mon, 27 Jun 2022 17:50:00 GMT