Marketing the Rainbow
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Amstel is a Dutch beer brand founded in 1870 in Amsterdam. It was taken over by Heineken International in 1968. The brand was named after the Amstel River, that gives Amsterdam it's name. Originally, Amstel beers were mostly consumed in Amsterdam. The expansion outside the city ran more or less parallel to the development of the Dutch railway network. Agents were appointed in towns along new railway lines. As from 1883, Amstel beers were also exported to Great Britain and the Dutch East Indies. In 1926, Amstel consisted of a third of the Dutch beer exports. In the 1950s they were the first Dutch brewery to export beer in cans.
Heineken offers several beers under the Amstel brand. Amstel Lager uses predominantly light pilsner malt, sold in 75 countries. Amstel Light is a 3.5% Alcohol by Volume (ABV) pale lager sold in the USA and The Netherlands. In France a beer called Amstel Free, with minimal alcohol content is produced. A non-alcoholic beer, Amstel Zero, can be purchased in the Netherlands, Greece, Egypt and few other countries. Amstel Ultra Light is a beer made by Heineken Mexico for the Mexican market.
Amstel has grown rapidly since 1968 and is now available in more than 100 countries. In terms of volume, Amstel is in the top 10 of the most sold international beer brands.
This article was last updated Dec 16, 2022
They started off a bit better in the US, where Amstel Light was positioned as Heineken's light beer. In 2002 they ran this 'bisexual" ad. "At Amstel Light, we believe in having the best of both worlds... especially when it comes to beer." This commercial is rare in its straightforward and non-judgmental approach to bisexuality. Of course, it also appeals to straight males' lesbian fantasies.
In the time when the restrictive policies of President Bolsonaro started being felt, a number of sponsors withdrew from Sao Paolo Pride, the biggest one in the world. This is when Amstel stepped in, presenting the "Amsterdam freedom spirit", becoming the official beer of the Pride Parade in São Paulo. Some 3 million spectators showed up (78% more than 2 years before).
To make sure the message got to everyone that matters, Amstel send a perfect invitation to some influencers: an experience box with a raincoat, pride tiaras and a celebratory cup. The box of goodies got its unboxing video. Last, but not least, to invite the company's staff, Amstel gave away tulips on it's São Paulo office and IZA,the most fierce Brazilian singer, recorded a special message as well.
The designs were made by creative strategist Pedro Capellão and Hands.Ag Agency.
In 2021 the Amstel team in Brazil produced a remarkable video in collaboration with 7 influencers, with the theme "I am what I am": *Pabllo Vittar * Mateus Carrilho * Marcela McGowan * Heey Cat * Pepita * Bielo Pereira * Raphael Dumaresq.
It was not just a social media campaign, but the commercial was repeatedly shown on national television. The remarkable thing is the homophobia in Brazil is rampant, encouraged by the president (whose name shall henceforth remain unmentioned - and has meanwhile been removed from office). The video quickly garnered over 8 million views with a 2:1 like:dislike ratio.
A subset of clips was made for social media.
In 2001, they ran a commercial in the Netherlands, called "Is it a man?". The three buddies (Friends Forever), who often played a role in Amstel commercials, want to know the gender of a blond lady at the end of the bar, and try to find out with a soccer question. From a Dutch company like Heineken, you would expect some more respect for both women and transgenders or transvestites (it is not clear in this video what we are dealing with). This Amstel commercial fails, supposedly it is fun.
As a separate brand under the Heineken group, Amstel follows its own course with its own branding. (see article about Heineken). Their present brand strategy says: “The brand experienced strong growth in 2021, driven by the acceleration in the Americas and Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe regions, and expansion into new key markets India and China. In Brazil, the brand experienced exceptional growth and increased market share through targeted engagement with consumers, proudly advocating inclusion and diversity on its key platforms, such as the high-impact media sponsorship of Big Brother Brasil, the launch of the “ I Am What I Am” campaign and activations around the sponsorship of the Copa Libertadores.”
Although some worldwide commercials were made about "Marketing the Rainbow", most of the activity in recent years has been seen in South America, and Brazil in particular.
A remarkable clip for the 2018 carnival in Brazil, where Amstel suggested to drink water... Between the revellers we also - briefly - see some gay guys. The video from 2017 showed a man in drag. But then again - it's the carnival...
Amstel was introduced in Brazil in 2016 to strengthen the portfolio of Heineken. The beer was presented as "European recipe, born in Amsterdam". This is now one of the brand's largest markets, despite the fact that it is not even strongly represented in all regions of the country.
According to Daniela Cachich, Director of Premium Brands Heineken Brazil, Amstel is strategic for the company: "Success in countries such as Holland, USA and Greece, Brazil, Amstel will be a choice of beer for our customers and consumers seeking the taste and quality of the products Heineken. Lovers of the brand create trends, are unconcerned with the standard, prefer new influence attitudes and always innovate".
For the carnival, a number of videos were made. Two that deserve attention in this respect are
Mozão de Carnaval (Carnival Crush) which shows a girl on girl kiss, and Casa Comigo? (Marry me?) where a guy proposes to a guy.
As sponsor of CONMEBOL Libertadores (a.k.a. the Copa Libertadores de América, the highest level of competition in South American club football), Amstel presented an initiative to break down barriers and prejudices in football that will challenge your convictions. The video "Accurate kick", created by HNK Lab, shows a social experiment with fans in love with their teams, and announces its support for JogaMiga and Ligay, two projects that promote the inclusion of women and LGBT+ people in the most popular sport in the world.
The collaboration with the influencers was continued, for instance for Bisexuality Day (September 23), where Marcela McGowan gives some tips.
On Instagram there were quite a few relevant posts as well.
Mid 2021, Amstel announced it would partner with the “Made with Pride” movement launched by Facebook for Pride Month. The initiative involved making advertising space available to increase the visibility of 200 small LGBT+ owned businesses. The project was developed together with the Aliança Nacional LGBTI+ and the Micro Rainbow International Foundation. Entrepreneurs could register to participate via a special website.
A sequel to this campaign was I am Gil, with a former Big Brother Brazil contestant. "Gil has done everything in his life. Everything, from waiter to betrothed to a woman. Today he is who he always wanted to be. Do you want to dive even deeper into this and other stories of Gil's pride?" A special section on the website was dedicated to his story.
Since Amstel committed to attaching the values Inclusion & Diversity to their brand, they have made a splash with relevant and beautiful content, including collaborations with LGBT charities. So far most of these campaigns are limited to Brazil. For these the global brand scores 8.5/10. Now, let's extend this beautiful vision and content to other markets.
Late 2021 superstar Pabllo Vittar launched an official live performance of his hit "Flash Pose". The original video was quickly viewed almost 30 million times. Vittar is a Brazilian drag queen, singer and songwriter. Pabllo has won numerous awards. His music is considered as "unofficial anthems for Brazil's LGBT community" and he is widely viewed as a voice for them. In this performance, Amstel's name appears a lot of the time.
The action aims to stimulate debate, through the fans' real stories, and support programs that go against the stereotypes that still exist. “Respect and diversity are two of Amstel's main pillars, that's why we always seek to bring relevant discussions that can contribute to society. We want to create more and more dialogue on this topic and support initiatives that have the same purpose as us: to show that the passion for football unites people, and this should be an inclusive environment where everyone feels respected”, says Vanessa Brandão, Marketing Manager of Amstel in Brazil.
Amstel leveraged Gil’s social channels to promote the content and also implemented a live merchandise with Fox Sports during the Copa Libertadores 2021 Final.
This project is reminiscent of Heineken's "Worlds Apart" from 2017.
They also introduced a Round Table, connected with Chute Certeiro, which brings together diverse people passionate about football to discuss diversity and inclusion in the most popular sport in the world, through their stories. This theme has become very topical since the OneBand debacle in the Netherlands and the events in Qatar.
The chat, which is available on the brand's social channels, was presented by Carter Batista, passionate about football and brand ambassador for 4 years, with the participation of the Captains of the Conquest of America Amstel from 90 minutes, Bianca Goes, Marcinho Black and Belle Suárez, and also with the presence of Josué Machado, president of Ligay, and Nayara Perone of JogaMiga, both members of projects supported by Amstel.
Before the main event, Amstel brought a new version of the Amsterdam Red Light District to the Pride Parties: the Rainbow Light District, an empowering photo installation. On the parade day, Amstel presented the I AM PROUD truck, a little piece of Amsterdam that got everyone dancing and celebrating to the sound of awesome DJs and performer IZA.
A very original video was shot in the brand's home base, Amsterdam - but for the UK market. Characteristic of the city are the 165 canals and the 1,200 bridges. In this clip, the giant Jeff Bridges tells us about the importance of those bridges: “They allow people to come together”. In one scene we see two girls kissing. On a bridge of course. And not look-at-us, but very casually, the way I like it.
For the launch of Amstel beer in Ecuador (‘La Cerveza Mas Que Bienvenida’ - The More Than Welcome Beer), this video was made. It displays an explosion of all kinds of diversity in terms of gender, age, origin, sexual orientation, size, (dis)ability.
The next year they ran a Pride campaign on IG Stories with the same theme: "At Amstel being inclusive is not just for one day, that's why we celebrate #PrideDay with these posts to put each of them into practice."
The plan is to make it even bigger and more impactful in 2022 in order to change the reality of members of the community, by enabling their financial empowerment.
For the campaign Amstel was awarded with 2 Lux Awards, one of the most prestigious Ecuadorian awards. They won Gold in Communications & Strategies and Silver in Craft & Art.
For Ecuadorian standards, and particularly in the local beer industry, no brand had such a focus on I&D in the past.
The campaign sentiment was dominantly positive and Amstel Ecuador closed the first full year at 28% above target.
When asked about possible negative reactions, Amstel said: "When you use explicit ATL attention to matters such as Ligay or Bisexuality Day, or posts on IG about Inclusion & Diversity (I&D), you can always expect a few people that do not agree with the brand's point of view - and that is fine. In all our campaigns or activations that address I&D, our focus is to provide a clear context on why these actions matter and how Amstel is engaged in supporting them. In Brazil, we fully embrace the Amsterdam values of openness and tolerance and we aim to reflect them also through the content of our social channels. So far, the overarching majority of consumers have shown very positive support for the topics and causes we have promoted."
The participation in this event was successful, also in numbers. The increasing popularity of Pride gave Sao Paolo an economic impulse of €70 million! As to brand impact for Amstel: the affinity grew from 44% to 49%, spontaneous awareness increased 2 percent point and communication awareness 7 p.p. and a case study was made about the campaign.