Heineken To Break Global ‘Champions’ Campaign

Freshly ensconced on the Heineken roster, StrawberryFrog this month is poised to break the work that helped get it there—a global campaign that will air in 154 countries over 9 months and be seen by about 3 billion soccer fans.

The shop’s New York and Amsterdam offices won the assignment to promote the brewer’s UEFA Champions League sponsorship in April and were invited to compete for a slot on the roster the following month. Two weeks ago, the client added StrawberryFrog to its lineup, based in part on the work breaking Sept. 13, a client representative said.

Created under the direction of Kevin McKeon, who began freelancing with the agency in April and was just appointed ecd of the New York office, the TV campaign employs a follow-the-bouncing-ball narrative that aims to take soccer out of the stadium and into the streets, hillsides and rooftops.

In the opening frame of a three-minute commercial, dubbed “One Big Game,” two teams play a night game in a stadium filled with screaming fans. When the ball ricochets off a goalpost and out of the stadium, it lands in a variety of settings—at a rural wedding, near the rooftop pool of a posh boutique hotel and in a TV studio, to name a few. In each case, passersby are momentarily surprised and dash off after the ball, ultimately booting it into another setting. The tagline is, “Welcome to Champions Planet.”

“We wanted to create this idea that during this championship season, everyone raises their game,” McKeon said. “Heineken is a better beer. It’s about raising your aspirations of good beer.”

Once seen as an exhibition match that followed the official season, the Champions League has raised its profile and is now seen as a forum where the best club teams in the world compete for the ultimate crown, said StrawberryFrog co-founder and director of client services Brian Elliott. With more soccer fans worldwide watching the playoff, Heineken this year subbed in Heineken for its Amstel brand.

The ad will be cut into 5-, 10-, 30-, 60- and 90-second executions that will run throughout the course of the games in a sequence designed to keep viewers guessing where the ball will land next. In the final segment, the ball is kicked into the soccer stadium’s parking lot before being booted back into the building by security guards, who chase after it, followed by 100,000 soccer fans.

According to Elliott, UEFA’s broadcasting schedule made distributing the work unusually easy for StrawberryFrog, which proselytizes that digital distribution has rendered worldwide brick-and-mortar networks obsolete. “It’s like getting a global Super Bowl—you do one delivery,” Elliott said. With just two offices, often working in tandem, one can get all of the creativity with none of the bureaucracy of worldwide networks, agency executives say.

Heineken chose StrawberryFrog over McCann Erickson for the roster position. Shane Hoyne, Heineken’s international communications manager, said he did not believe global clients have to rely on large agency networks. “What we need is a good creative solution.”

This year, StrawberryFrog has also been contacted by or pitched Jaguar, BMW, Credit Suisse and McDonald’s, which the agency sees as proof that it can compete against the global shops and attract global clients.

McKeon, 48, who worked on Heineken while at Lowe from 1997 to 2001, replaces former ecd Andy Mckeon. “After working with the agency for a couple of months I felt it was going to happen,” McKeon said. “I liked the principals. I really clicked with Scott [Goodson].” McKeon, who served as ecd at Bartle Bogle Hegarty in New York from 2001 to 2004, is best known for the launch of Unilever’s Axe and the agency’s Levi’s work.