Nights Out Get a Rebrand as Heineken Eyes Esports
In "Just Another Night Out," a bunch of friends text each other from all over São Paulo to organize a random evening get-together.
Set to Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now," much of the ad follows a woman dashing across town for the meetup in a series of negotiations with urban transit options. She's working hard to show up.
So where she ends up is a bit of a surprise: At home!
The woman opens her fridge, pops a Heineken and fires up her computer, where her friends await at the start of a multi-player game.
This ad's doing a lot of lifting here, so let's break it down. Most obvious is Heineken's desire to break the stereotype of gaming as antisocial.
"We entered the universe of games because we have something in common: the fact that socialization is both the core of our brand and the gamer community," says Eduardo Picarelli, director of Heineken's Brazilian business unit. "The role chosen for Heineken in this campaign is to demystify the image of the gamer isolated from friends."
Over many years working within esports, it was frustrating to see how little the sector cared about how people perceived it from the outside. Changing this struck us as critical to managing the narrative, and the opportunities, of esports as it went mainstream. As Picarelli points out, it's not mere dopamine addiction that drives people to gamer chairs; it's community relationships, which became especially critical during pandemic lockdowns.
But Heineken tackles a bunch of other preconceived notions here, too. Gaming has never really been the sole preoccupation of young men and boys; the universe of gaming at large has always been a pretty even 50/50 split between genders.
And while esports on its face may look more masculine and less mature than gaming overall, its longest-term devotees are aging, and can't devote whole days or nights clocking time to mastering complex competitive worlds.
The people in Heineken's ad appear active, diverse and cool—and they're clearly adults. They're well past pro-gaming age (the average age of a pro-gamer is 24 for men and 27 for women). So, logging in must be negotiated with other priorities: Making money, physical activity, getting haircuts, catching cabs.
And this is realistic. The average age of a gamer now is about 35, and the sport is a lot more diverse than tournament pictures would have you believe. Women are also increasingly visible in esports; their presence in huge figures is already a norm in Asia.
Then there's the matter of the beer. The drink of choice in esports has always been energy drinks; Red Bull's been involved in the market since 2006. Pro gamers favor water during actual tournaments, because they're trained—rightly—as actual athletes. The idea of needing sugary energy spikes for focus and concentration is more of a cultural behavior among younger gamers.
Replacing this behavior with a beer marks a turning point. Alcohol is a depressant, not a stimulant, so the vibe here is more leisurely. This is about adults looking to relax and hang out for fun. The competitive, classically testosterone-charged aspect of esports doesn't just become secondary; it’s annulled in favor of the relational high. Nobody's trying to go pro anymore, if they ever were in the first place.
The ad also modifies a classic stereotype in beer advertising. Beer is the great democratizing alcoholic beverage. As such, it's usually promoted in extroverted, physically social contexts: More the bar in Cheers, less home alone, cracking one after the other on the couch.
Here, Heineken recognizes that what we consider meaningfully "social" has changed, especially for people of a certain age who may otherwise be active. We have introverted selves that long for respite from the assault of outside stimulus. But we still want to be with our chosen people on a regular basis, not just on Super Bowl Sunday. Around mad schedules, last-minute demands, and families, gearing up together at your respective computers is a great compromise.
The woman in the ad doesn't appear to have a traditional family, which marks the last stereotype Heineken shatters. Millennials are often castigated for how few children we are producing, and the reasons are legion: We make less money, and costs are higher. We have more flexible choices in terms of work and organizing our lives. People are "younger" longer. The overall fertility rate is falling. The "world" is ending. We could go on.
But seeing that illustrated here, with a woman, in a gaming context, alone with alcohol, and without judgment? That's a big freaking deal. It's a reality many of us live in and take for granted, but one brands haven’t always been comfortable with tackling, let alone in the case of beer. (Or, frankly, gaming.)
So this is the subtle rebranding—reprogramming, really—of a number of advertising templates. It's a better match for our world. And it represents a lot of work to do in a minute, set to Queen, no less.
The ad ends, "Not all nights out are out," a 30-something war cry if we ever heard one. From the choice of the music to the storytelling arc, this is good late-millennial catnip. It establishes a clear audience for Heineken and gives it a corner of esports to advocate for—the brand’s been actively involved in the scene for at least three years—while neatly uniting demographic and brand interests: In gaming as in drinking, adults know how to moderate. And it can still feel good.
The ad was brought to you by Publicis Groupe's Le Pub, through its gaming and innovation division, Le Garage. Frederic Planchon (Academy Films) directed it. While the campaign is global, it debuted in Brazil, where 88 percent of the population are gamers.
Additional support includes gaming challenges on TikTok and Twitch, and In-Game Bars, a program that offers Heineken vouchers in 2700 mobile games. iFood, a delivery app, will enable gamers to order Heineken beverages. Lastly, alongside São Paulo supermarket chain St. Marche, a "Beer Matchmaking" experience lets players toting limited-edition Heineken bottles to find matches based on their favorite game.
Sr. Director Global Heineken Brand: Bram Westenbrink Global communication director: Agnieszka Gorecki
Global communication manager: Guilherme Retz
Brand global PR lead: Jonathan O’Lone
Global head digital consumer innovation: Natacha Volpini
Brazil CMO: Nabil Nasser
Brazil brand director: Eduardo Picarelli
Brazil Sr brand manager: Igor de Castro
Brazil brand manager: Marina Awada
Brazil head of PR: Adriana Teixeira
Agency: Publicis Italy/LePub & LePub Brazil
Global CEO Le Pub, Global CCO Publicis Worldwide and CCO Publicis Groupe Italy: Bruno Bertelli
Global chief creative officer: Cristiana Boccassini / Mihnea Gheorghiu
Chief creative officer Brazil: Felipe Cury
Global executive creative director: Andrey Tyukavkin
Creative director Brazil: Greg Kickow / Alex Adati
Associate creative director Italy: Stefano Zanoni, Roberto Ardigò
Copywriter Brazil: Andressa Cruz
Intern art director Italy: Thu Cao
Intern copywriter Italy: Amilcar Silarsah Veerapen
Intern copywriter Italy: Başak Özkeskin
Global head of PR and communication: Isabella Cecconi
General manager Brazil: Ana Hernandes
Business director Brazil: Jayme Neto
Group account director Italy: Ilaria Castiglioni
Global account director: Derek Muller
Global data strategist: Ilko Petkov
Global strategy director: Monica Radulescu / James Moore
Head of strategy Brazil: Silvia Paes
Global chief production officer: Francesca Zazzera
Producer post production Brazil: Marcia Lacazze
Producer post production Italy: Sabrina Sanfratello
Production company: Academy Films
Director: Frederic Planchon
DOP: Ruben Impens
Executive producer: Simon Cooper
Producer: Dulcie Kellett