Heineken Rugby Club drives forward
Stephen Ferris - Heineken Brand Ambassador
Here's hoping we bring it home - Ireland 2023
Mike McGoldrick, aka Shane Todd, a Heineken Rugby Club regular
Heineken Quarter at Kingspan Stadium
HEINEKEN has earned recognition as one of the brands with the greatest impact on the sports world, thanks to its commitment to the biggest rugby tournaments in the world and sponsorship of the UEFA Champions League.
HEINEKEN’S slogan Open your World perfectly reflects what the beer company, headquartered in the Netherlands and operating in 70 countries worldwide, asks its audience: to be receptive to the new experiences that Heineken® offers them, and this rings true in Northern Ireland too.
Earlier this year when Martin McAuley, MD of United Wine Merchants, announced that HEINEKEN Northern Ireland was being integrated into the United Wines Merchants business, it signalled a new era for the HEINEKEN portfolio across Northern Ireland.
Martin and his 49-strong team at UWM have taken responsibility for all the brands in the portfolio including Desperados, Tiger, Sol and the already hugely successful apple cider brand Orchard Thieves. 2018 has been earmarked as a year with huge opportunity for UWM, with a major focus on HEINEKEN and its association with rugby in this market.
Martin explains: “HEINEKEN has had a relationship with rugby for over 20 years. The brand has been committed to the Rugby World Cup since 1995 and Heineken® and World Rugby recently extended their deal to the Rugby World Cup 2019 which will be hosted by Japan. The latest deal also meant that the brand became an official partner of Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017, held recently at Kingspan Stadium. This was special – as we were able to celebrate the women’s game on the world stage right here in Belfast. Our partnership with the Kingspan Stadium and our long standing relationship with Ulster Rugby enabled us to engage and entertain fans on Finals Day.”
The team at UWM activated in style, hosting events in the Heineken® Quarter Bar, working with rugby raconteur Michael Jackson, Grace Davitt, a former Irish Grand Slam winner, Instagram influencer Tiffany Brien and Ulster player Tommy Bowe. Throughout the build up to the tournament, fans were also offered opportunities to win tickets for Finals Day which included the opportunity to take part in the captain’s coin toss before the games.
Emma Haughian, Brand Manager at UWM, said: “It was a special atmosphere that day and naturally there was a lot of speculation about Ireland’s bid for the Rugby World Cup in 2023. Witnessing the buzz that the Women’s Rugby World Cup brought to Belfast, everyone at United Wine Merchants already have their fingers and toes crossed for November 15th, when World Rugby makes their decision for 2023.”
HEINEKEN’S association with rugby in Northern Ireland dates back to 2010 when the brand agreed a relationship with Ulster Rugby, which was renewed in 2015 for a further five years. HEINEKEN sees the relationship as a crucial part of their rugby strategy on the island of Ireland, alongside a similar relationship with Connaught Rugby and as a Tournament Partner to the European Rugby Champions Cup & Challenge Cup.
“The brand has a significant pedigree in the game,” explains Emma. “Our job is to bring this to life for our partners and fans – and that is exactly why we are going to make a significant investment in the Heineken® Rugby Club platform in this market.”
Heineken® Rugby Club is a community that aims to connect supporters around the world. Fans can find recommendations on the best pubs and get information on cities for upcoming away fixtures. Once registered at heinekenrugbyclub.com, members can receive exclusive benefits such as match tickets, rugby event invites and ‘always on’ discounts from key partner brands.
There are already over 32,000 Heineken® Rugby Club members across Ireland and the game is more popular than ever with high profile matches often sold out months in advance. This season the activity has already ramped up – with members being given the chance to win a trip to Bilbao to watch the European Rugby Champions Cup Final, accompanying brand ambassador Stephen Ferris, and the plans for activities in Northern Ireland are well under way.
To support trade partners and bring consumers closer to the game, UWM are rolling out plans for Heineken® Rugby Club in the stadium, in the on-trade, offtrade and online.
In previous seasons, the Heineken® Rugby Club has hosted events at Kingspan Stadium with Mike McGoldrick (aka Shane Todd), the self-proclaimed ‘Prince of North Down’ and Stephen Ferris. These events regularly featured guests including; Malcolm O’Kelly, Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble – all of whom got the full ’24 Carat McGoldrick’ experience.
“In the 2017/2018 season, UWM intend to bring the platform to life in both the on and off-trade, as well as in Kingspan Stadium on selected match days,” Emma said: “In the on-trade, we are supporting our key partners with premium visibility that will cement their reputation as the place to watch the biggest games of rugby throughout the season. We will deliver external visibility and a full suite of merchandising options and social media tools that will drive footfall and increase rate of sale.
Key trade partners will be allocated a prize fund through their HEINEKEN representative including match tickets to Ulster Rugby games and branded merchandise. On high footfall match days, we will deliver engaging consumer activations in partner venues. We are also offering our partners a chance to win hospitality tickets for staff to key home Ulster Rugby games throughout the season.”
Exciting plans are also being worked on for the off-trade which will include, entry draws for Ulster Rugby tickets and Heineken® Rugby Club and Ulster Rugby merchandise. Northern Ireland consumers are also encouraged to sign up to heinekenrugbyclub.com and the team at UWM are working closely with HEINEKEN Ireland and Ulster Rugby to secure new Northern Ireland partners that will reward members with year round discounts and access to money-cannot- buy experiences.
Emma concludes: “We are very excited about the plans. In short the partnership between UWM, HEINEKEN and rugby in Northern Ireland looks like it has a very bright future.”
For more information on how to get involved with the Heineken® Rugby Club, contact United Wine Merchants on 028 3831 6555 or check out the website: unitedwines.co.uk.