Heineken Is Turning to Foursquare to Target U.S. Fans of European Football

Branded apps continue to wane

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In soccer parlance, mobile is like the corner kick of digital brand marketing while something typically easier to score off of, such as search, is more akin to a free kick. But Heineken, for the next three months, is going to try to bend it like Lionel Messi (or Beckham of old) with Foursquare, targeting U.S.-based fans of European fútbol.

The beer giant is seeing a lack of activity with its proprietary mobile apps—a sentiment that's become an all-too-common theme among consumer brands. "What we've learned in the last couple of years is that consumers aren't really into downloading branded apps," Bram Reukers, Heineken's brand manager, told Adweek.

So his team has established its deepest integration to date with Foursquare, which has roughly 45 million registered users. In a multilayered campaign, the beer brand is zeroing in on folks who will be watching the UEFA Champions League in bars and restaurants. The UEFA's knockout rounds begin today, and Heineken will encourage check-ins by pitching the chance to win a trip to Europe as well as daily and weekly prizes. The latter will entail UEFA-Heineken-Adidas-branded jackets and polo shirts, including swag signed by popular league players.

Interestingly, consumers will be able to check in via the beer brand's HTML5 mobile microsite in addition to Foursquare. (They'll all count as Foursquare check-ins, to be clear.) The companies' digital properties are synced while tracking check-ins for individuals—as well as cities such as New York, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Dallas and Los Angeles. The contest involves a data-visualization map where participants can see what cities are recording the most check-ins. In late May, a city will be deemed triumphant, and then one of that town's frequent check-in participants will be randomly selected as the winner of a trip abroad to see a UEFA match next year with two friends.

Reukers said that the U.S.-based Foursquare component fits nicely into his company's worldwide UEFA sponsorship, which will call upon nearly every digital and traditional channel available in an integrated push. It builds on a smaller Foursquare effort that Heineken ran during last year's U.S. Open tennis tournament, he said.

"With Foursquare, it's about connecting with consumers and rewarding them," Reukers said. "We actually use data to create a consumer benefit, and that's a first for us as a brand. And we are delivering relevant content at a relevant time."

Swen Graham, Foursquare's director of creative and brand strategy, added, "This program was complex, with a number of technical and operational challenges to solve. …We've married mobile data, creativity and technology to create this branded experience."

To push the contest, Heineken is running physical product displays in thousands of taverns, eateries and convenience stores across the United States. Utilizing Foursquare's relatively new post check-in ads unit, Heineken promos will appear after check-ins at drinking and dining establishments. Terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.

"Since the consumer is driven by the Foursquare check-in to bars where their fellow fans are cheering on the teams," commented Eric Bader, RadiumOne cmo, "it's likely that consumers will then share content with their social networks, including more on Foursquare, which can extend the Heineken brand's investment even further."

Meanwhile, industry watchers have wondered whether Foursquare can increasingly monetize. And while its seven-month-old post check-in ads have been repeatedly purchased for brands such as Orbit, Pepto-Bismol and Norwegian Cruise Lines, it's still unclear how the mobile promos have performed.

At the same time, Foursquare revenue chief Steven Rosenblatt suggested the multitiered Heineken campaign was a sign of things to come as his company cozies up with marketers.

"We are actively speaking to other brands for campaigns that take advantage of our unique data set in creative ways," he said. "Stay tuned."

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.