Laško x NK Maribor

The ESA Excellence Award winner – Pivovarna Laško Union from Slovenia – discussed the strategies, behind-the-scenes and details of their interesting, successful activations.

How to bring the ‘Beer of our Fathers’ closer to young people?

Pivovarna Laško Union took on the challenge of bringing the Laško beer, perceived by many as the ‘Beer of our Fathers,’ closer to the younger generation. They decided to activate a 25-year-long sponsorship with NK Maribor, creating an integrated campaign with NK Maribor’s team captain Marcos Tavares and Sebastjan Cimirotić, a retired footballer who played for NK Maribor’s opponent NK Olimpija. Both legendary Slovenian football players were part of Laško’s campaign called “Stava” (The Bet), where they engaged in a battle for a bottle of Laško. A variety of online content was created for the campaign, and Laško’s image was changed in honour of the club’s participation in the UEFA Champions League. The sponsorship activation “Laško x NK Maribor” received the ESA Best of Europe Bronze Award.

Football duel as a topic of conversation

Janez Rakušček, Executive Creative Director at Luna TBWA, advertising agency that created Pivovarna Laško Union’s communication project, says that “The Bet” was a continuation of the previous campaign called “Dvoboj” (The Duel) where two Slovenian actors, Boris Cavazza and Sebastian Cavazza, engaged in a battle of rhymes over the last bottle of Laško. The concept remained the same – two legends fighting over one bottle of the Zlatorog beer by using their skills – only this time it was sports instead of acting. “As all over the world, football is the most popular sport in Slovenia, and its popularity is continuing to grow, therefore it was the logical choice. At the same time we wanted to make this traditional, well-known brand ‘younger’, more dynamic and interesting. The communication provoked reaction, engagement and conversation with the audience, which made Laško a topic that stayed with consumers even when they were not directly tuned,” explains Rakušček.

“It does not matter who you are and what you are like, it matters that you love Laško”

When asked about what was the reason for choosing the two players, Rakušček replies that it was because they are both Slovenian football legends but at the same time very different personalities, which made the communication even more interesting. “Marcos is NK Maribor’s team captain and Sebastjan’s heart will always be with NK Olimpija; one is calm and soft, while the other is impulsive and emotional. In their communication they therefore acted as the ideal couple of the two opposites, which was very engaging for the audience. Symbolically, we wanted to say that it really does not matter who you are and what you are like, what matter is that you like Laško,” says Rakušček. 

In order to reach a younger audience of beer lovers, especially those over 25, they created more dynamic and humorous messages. Aside from traditional media such as TV and external advertising, they also used social media with different messages, “Through a series of video ads formatted to fit the fast content consumption on social, Marcos and Cimirotić used humour to convince the audience to bet on them.” The story ended with a direct TV broadcast during the final when they tried to hit a bottle of Laško at the Celje stadium.

Urban Kramberger, Pivovarna Laško Union Brand Manager, says that the results of consistent communication are best reflected in their sales which have continued to increase since 2016, however, awards such as their ESA Excellence Award are also meaningful. “All our activities are ultimately an investment that we need to monetise. Laško wants to maintain its position of a ‘modern brand,’ that is why we put a lot of our attention on engaging and including consumers in the communication,” explains Kramberger. The results of online communication between Tavares and Cimirotić speak for themselves: 370,000 bets, 6 million views, 564,000 visits, 11,000 reactions, comments and shares, 12,000 clicks and 12,000 live views of the final. “We want to include everyone in our message, not only younger audiences, although they are the ones that are the most active on social media,” concludes Kramberger.

Consumer as part of the game

Kramberger sees sponsorship as a business and not only a fan-based collaboration. “It is important that both parties benefit as much as possible from the relationship, and that they are using it to build their brand and their image, strengthen their position and add emotion.” In this sense, the relationship between Pivovarna Laško Union and NK Maribor is based on the understanding of what they both want, “This kind of relationship cannot be built over night. It is a gradual process based on trust and clearly defined goals.”

Janez Rakušček points out that famous athletes are too often used in communication campaigns as a means to attract the viewer’s attention quickly and automatically while the organic, content-based connection between the brand, the story and the athlete’s personality is missing. “To achieve the optimal effect we need to create engaging, meaningful, coherent stories connecting the brand with the athlete or the club. Using athletes as cardboard figures with messages and logos is simply not enough,” says Rakušček.

“Include the consumer in your communication, in the discussion. Make them a part of the partnership. Make them feel like they are a part of the game. Be creative, step out of the comfort zone, stay away from clichés. Keep your focus on ‘who and what,’ and most importantly, be consistent,” emphasises Urban Kramberger.

Author: Simona Kruhar Gaberšček. The article was first published in SPORTO Magazine No. 11 (May 2018). Also available at SPORTO conference website