It wasn’t that long ago that the idea of any beer company spending money to promote their non-alcoholic beer during any sporting event, much less the Super Bowl, would have seemed ludicrous. Yet, that is just what Heineken is doing. Their move shines yet another spotlight on the ever-expanding low-no alcohol market and how brands are taking notice of a trend that doesn’t seems to be slowing.
By partnering with entertainment powerhouse Marvel Studios, Heineken is banking on Marvel’s ability to connect with the Millennium generation through their movies. Their collaboration centers around the upcoming film Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumanina, which premiers one week after the Super Bowl. The first teaser ads hit the market on January 9th and featured the movie’s star, Paul Rudd, sipping on a Heineken 0.0.
Coming fresh on the heels of Dry January, the push by Heineken to grow their non-alcoholic drinks highlights the commitment many large brewers and distillers are putting into carving out their own space in the sober-curious market. Given that the term Dry January only came into being in 2014 when the UK government trademarked the name, its popularity has been impressive. An estimated one in five US adults said they were giving it a try in 2022, which equates to over 40 million people. It’s numbers like those that have caused many in the alcohol industry to take notice.
“Heineken 0.0, which we launched globally in 2017, has been flying and is a core part of our franchise,” says Johnnie Cahill, Heineken USA CMO. “We don’t see it as something to be pushed off to the side, the way non-alcoholic beers were for the longest time. We have been investing north of fifty million dollars a year in Heineken 0.0 to help develop the non-alcoholic category. Our leadership has helped. We brought an iconic brand into a space that wasn’t the most dynamic category in the beer market and have helped make moderation cool.”
According to one of the latest Gallup polls, the percentage of American adults who abstain from alcohol is 37%, a number that has stayed roughly the same over the last decade. What has changed is the preference of those non-drinkers. In the past, they did not buy non-alcoholic beverages from alcohol companies, but they are doing just that these days. The low-to-alcohol-free market has swelled to over 5% share and saw a 315% increase in dollar sales in 2021.
As the leading non-alcoholic beer in America, Heineken 0.0 is helping to normalize the idea of moving near beers out of the dusty corners it had been relegated to forever and into the spotlight. According to Cahill, Heineken works with its distributors to have its non-alcoholic beer placed in the middle of its other products. It’s part of their core brands; as such, it is in the cooler next to their other beer offerings. This approach is being mirrored by other major brands, with Budweiser Zero in its bright white packaging sitting next to the red and blue packaging of Budweiser and Bud Light.
The partnership with Marvel is only the latest move that Heineken has made promoting its non-alcoholic beer. They have an ongoing deal with Formula One and have featured their beer at various events ranging from the Coachella Music Festival to Major League Soccer. They even paired up with James Bond a few years ago.
“We are focused on making moderation cool for people. Bringing 0% beer into iconic moments and franchises in popular culture legitimizes the category and transitions it from being something you are doing, not drinking alcohol, to something you want to do, enjoy a beer with no alcohol,” says Cahill. “We designed the spots with Marvel to offer a playful message that you can enjoy a beer while being responsible. The tagline that the title character can ‘Shrink responsibly’ is consistent with our messaging. There are many moments when you’d love a beer, but maybe you want to lay off the alcohol.”
The campaign is slated to run until the end of February, with both the Super Bowl ad and the movie’s opening serving as the climax. Where Heineken 0.0 heads after that, we will have to wait and see. But, chances are good that you will see them continue to pop up on drinkers’ radar along with other big brands as they all seek to take advantage of the emergence of a new trend in drinking.