In this chat with AKIN ADEWAKUN, Head, Premium, Sessionable Portfolio, Nigerian Breweries Plc, Sampson Oloche, talks about the exploits of the company’s premium lager beer brand, Heineken, in the nation’s beer market, giving reasons the company dedicates a substantial part of its media budget to promoting ethical drinking. Excerpts.
Nigeria’s lager beer market is becoming increasingly competitive. How has the Heineken brand been able to weather the storm and sustain its relevance in the space?
Basically, I think Heineken sets for itself a very high standard and so it starts right from the product level. We use the highest quality ingredients for beer across board, and the process is very standardised. It is controlled centrally from Amsterdam. The quality standard is really very high. For a brewery to qualify to brew Heineken anywhere in the world, it has to go through a very rigorous process. We have eight breweries in Nigeria, and Heineken is not produced in everyone of them. That is just an example. It simply means that the quality expected to produce Heineken is high. That is what has been set up as a standard globally. Every brew of Heineken has to be approved in Amsterdam before it goes out to the market. There are lots of quality checks and that’s why even if the demand for Heineken is very high, we cannot produce it too much. We can’t rush the process. It has to go through a certain number of days, the ingredients have to be of a certain quality and the brewery that produces it has to be of a certain quality and also the brewers have to be master brewers. So, it is the highest-level beer you can make.
Heineken has continued to evolve overtime with new innovations as evident in its 33cl sleek pack. How has that enhanced its equity in the market?
The response for it has been very positive. It is now contributing a significant portion to the Heineken volume already. I will be honest to say that we were pleasantly surprised that it worked out the way it is working out currently and it has been such a big discovery for us and we intend to keep it that way.
A prominent feature on the Heineken’s sleek can is the UEFA Champions League trophy. What were the reasons for this?
We have been sponsoring the Champions League for many years and I think it is just to bring that association to the consumers at first hand level. That is why we put the branding on it. It is not a permanent fixture, we put it there for a month at the peak of a Champions League season and take it out again. So, basically it is a way of driving our association with the platform. Of course, if you know Nigeria very well, football, generally speaking, is one of the biggest passion points for our consumers and the Champions League is the highest level of football that we can have on an annual basis.
As a company that advocates responsible drinking, how much of Heineken’s media spend goes into promoting responsible drinking across all operating companies?
We have a global mandate and I don’t think it is a secret that it is 10 per cent of our media spend that goes into promoting responsible drinking. So one out of every N10 spent in the media has to go into this campaign. There is no regulatory or government regulation on this. This is just us being a corporate citizen to say we take 10 per cent of our media on promoting this, then we are doing a good job educating people and reminding them that they should stay safe.
Heineken has been the official sponsor of the UEFA Champions League for over 27 years. How has this partnership enhanced the equity of the brand?
I think the length of sponsorship already tells you everything. If you are married to someone for 27 years, no matter what happens after that, that person is part of your life. So, it is a partnership like a marriage. Twenty-seven years is a very long time and that time already indicates that we are both happy. So, it is a mutually beneficial relationship; they benefit from you and you benefit from them as well.
What exactly informed Heineken’s product placement with James Bond movies?
James Bond is also an association we have been making before. If you look at it, James Bond, the whole franchise, the hero, the very international man of the world, ties with our formal positioning as ‘Be the man of the world.’ If you look at the kind of things Heineken does, they are things we want you to see only behind Heineken. So, we look for things that are not regular, not easy to get and also, not cheap. But they are things that will deliver for you because no other brand can copy it. You can’t copy a James Bond franchise. We all grew up watching James Bond. So, from young to old, everybody associates with the platform. Everybody sees in themselves a hero even though they don’t act it but it is somewhere hidden in you and that association is just fantastic.
Heineken recently became the first global brand to invest in the Lagos Fashion and Design Week. What was the attraction?
The Fashion and Design Week is a way of broadening the reach of the Heineken brand because if you look at a lot of our sponsorships like Formula One, Euro, Bonds, movies, they are a lot more masculine than feminine. Again, fashion in Nigeria is a platform that attracts a broad audience but it indexes a lot in females and also very young people. If you add that to the football audience, you will see how we are trying to reach a broader set of consumers, first-hand through their passion points because all we do is ignite consumer passion, and anything that ignites their passions is something we are interested in. We are meeting the consumers at their passion points, the same way we are meeting a huge part of our consumers with football.
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