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Heineken and Formula 1: An unstoppable partnership at the Miami F1 Grand Prix

Heineken and F1 make a dynamic team

Heineken at F1 race in Miami.
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The Miami Grand Prix has come and gone, treating South Florida to some blisteringly fast Formula 1 Racing. The 57-lap affair unfolded on May 3-5th, 2024, culminating in Lando Norris clinching the win, a first for the McLaren racer. The excitement was palpable for fans, who got to sit back and watch Norris make history with a cold one in hand — Heineken, to be exact. The beer brand has partnered with F1 since 2016, and the pair recently renewed their collaboration. Given the commitment both have to shared values like innovation and speed, a partnership makes sense. It’s also good news for F1 enthusiasts.

How Heineken’s brand power is accelerating the F1 experience for fans

Miami Grand Prix crowd.
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The Miami Grand Prix is not just about thrilling races and iconic rivalries; it’s also a showcase of a global partnership between Heineken and Formula 1 that’s rewriting the rules of fan engagement.
Heineken, through its flagship Silver, Original, and 0.0 beers, has become an integral part of the F1 fan experience. Read on to explore how this collaboration came to life, the brand’s goals, and the ways Heineken Silver is winning over new fans.

The Drive to Survive Phenomenon

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Six seasons in, Drive to Survive has changed the game when it comes to F1 awareness. The show, which offers a one-of-a-kind view of this multibillion-dollar sporting industry, has been wildly popular and is easily one of the best shows on Netflix to have come out in the last several years. Turns out, the drivers and their teams are as captivating as the high-stakes races themselves, revealing the massive pressure and intensity inherent to F1.

Heineken’s CMO, Jonnie Cahill, says the show has transformed casual viewers into fervent fans, unlocking new levels of engagement. “It has all the component parts—jealousy, rivalry, love, hate, betrayal—making it a story. As Drive to Survive goes, F1’s popularity continues to rise, which has been brilliant for us as a global partner,” says Cahill.

“Drive to Survive has been an amazing unlock for the sport.”

The Netflix series provides a deep dive into F1 culture, giving viewers around the world unprecedented access to this high-octane sport. “Drive to Survive has been an amazing unlock for the sport,” Cahill continues. “What it did was allow people to see, no pun intended, under the hood.”

Not that the sport didn’t already have a passionate following, but the show has helped take the racing style from niche to main event. “F1 never had an issue with its diehard fans, but Drive to Survive opened it up to a much broader audience,” he says.

The show reveals a multidimensional sport with a lot of points of entry. “Some people watch it because of the cars, some people watch it because of the technology. Some people watch it because the drivers are beautiful. Some people watch it because the pit stops can be amazing, and they’re high moments of jeopardy,” adds Cahill. “So, what Drive To Survive did was it gave all of us different ways in.”

The sport gained a new following, and light bulbs went off in the heads of those at Heineken: Teaming up with the high-paced sport that runs races in all corners of the globe was a no-brainer.

Heineken’s role in elevating F1

Miami Grand Prix.
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Heineken Silver is approachable by nature, a lighter beer with a lower alcohol content. It’s a timeless style in the brand’s native Europe, but has become increasingly popular throughout the world as wellness has come to the fore and imbibers look to do so responsibly. By offering a refreshing lower-ABV beer, Heineken is paving the way for race fans to celebrate mindfully.

“[Heineken] Silver is low carb, low calorie, very refreshing,” Cahill notes, adding that more than half of the U.S. beer market is domestic or light beer, making this easy-to-drink beer a perfect fit. “We’re bringing the world’s most iconic, very premium beer brand into the heart of the U.S. beer market with a very accessible product that delivers on all of those things.”

Of course, that means educating consumers. “The Heineken brand is really admired, but the beer Heineken original isn’t for everybody,” Cahill says. A lot of times, people think, ‘Oh yeah, I know that. And it’s maybe not for me.’ And with Heineken Silver, we’re saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got something that’s exactly for you.'”

The flagship beer lineup includes the iconic Original as well as 0.0, the brand’s decidedly delicious zero-proof version. Such variety allows for a more significant brand presence, as no two race fans have the same taste. Couple that with Heineken’s commitment to bringing people together through the communal power of beer, win or lose, and the joint venture with F1 seems pretty savvy.

“We’re in the business of socializing; we’re a beer brand,” Cahill says. “We want to bring people together, and whatever they’re talking about, we’re cool with it…We’d like you to do it over a Heineken.”

“With Heineken Silver, we’re saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got something that’s exactly for you.'”

Premium begets premium. That’s Heineken’s approach when it comes to aligning with the best racers on earth. It’s experiential marketing that works well for all parties involved. “What we do is make sure that whatever, wherever we show up — US Open, Major League Soccer, Champions League in Europe, F1 — that it’s an elevated experience,” Cahill says. “If you look over and see the red star, you should know that whatever is happening over there is better.”

Such experiences are enjoyed by a tight brethren of fans and paint Heineken as more than just a beer company, but a lifestyle brand. “Our company purpose is ‘we brew the joy of true togetherness,'” he says.

And those experiences are engaging, connecting fans through campaigns like #SocialiseResponsibly and activations at races that encourage people to really embrace the spectacle that is F1 racing.

The unique F1-Heineken relationship

Peter Camps and Dan Gaul
Peter Camps and Dan Gaul Race Services

Cahill deems F1 a true global and iconic sports franchise, a great stage for a big and still-ambitious brand like Heineken. Being an international partner means going wherever the F1 series goes — Grand Prix stops at places like Barcelona, Monaco, Baku, and more. But there’s another layer too.

“We always use it [F1] with Heineken Zero because of our ongoing commitment to never ever drinking and driving, which is a great way to elevate moderation and make moderation cool,” he says. That’s a refreshing way to partner with a sport devoted to being behind the wheel. Fans can enjoy the sport with a more mindful perspective and even go the NA route in the stands.

“If the best drivers on earth never drink and drive, you certainly shouldn’t,” Cahill adds. Granted, advocating against drinking and driving is nothing new for the beer world and something Heineken devotes some ten percent of its global media budget to, according to Cahill. But the brand walks the walk, too, working under a company policy against the act.

Dan Gaul and Jonnie Cahill
Dan Gaul and Jonnie Cahill Race Services

Heineken is as serious about the quality of their beer as their mission of responsible drinking. Cahill says the partnership with F1 proves as much. “The one thing that sponsorships of this level allow you to do is to elevate innovations because what it says to the market is we’re in, it’s big, and we’re serious,” he says.

“We can do all the outreach and influencer work, but what sponsorships do disproportionately is they add a sense of deep commitment, and they elevate, and they’re very prestigious,” Cahill says. As a partner, Heineken is involved in the naming rights with races like Heineken Silver Las Vegas Grand Prix, another major race in November.

Cahill says the level of premium-ness and pursuit of an elevated experience is something Heineken and F1 very much have in common. Both brands thrive on innovation, speed, and global reach. Heineken’s ethos goes hand in (racing) glove with F1’s pacy nature. Staying ahead of the game means moving at an impressive speed, just ask Miami Grand Prix winner Lando Norris.

Looking forward

Heineken bottle lineup.
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What’s next for this dynamic partnership? Brand collaborations move fast, kinda like F1 cars, so expect a lot soon in the way of innovative campaigns, fan-centric activations, and Heineken’s proven commitment to supporting the sustainable growth of F1 racing. Race-goers will continue to see the red flag at F1 events and will connect with fellow enthusiasts over a cold one or two, non-alcoholic or otherwise. Fans should keep an eye out for their next activation as race season heats up this spring and summer.

Growth seems to be part of the future for both realms. According to Nielsen, F1 racing has seen a twofold increase in viewers between 2018 and 2023. More fans mean more people showing up to the race track and more exposure for Heineken. Just as beer has become synonymous with major European soccer tournaments and Coachella, it will no doubt do the same with F1.

In the meantime, Heineken will keep investing in the best technology to make the most revolutionary non-alcoholic beer possible. The process itself is far from cheap, but the brand is all-in. The goal, says Peter Camps, the brewmaster and quality and education manager at Heineken, is “to make it to perfection and as close as possible to a Heineken Original with the guarantee that it has no traceable amount of alcohol,” a process that took Heineken some ten years of research and development. It’s a tireless process, but one that’s paid off. Camps says there’s never a dull day at headquarters, where the brand is constantly experimenting on the daily.

“If we think of something we want to create, we want to be a leader in doing that too,” Camps says.

We’ll look forward to what lies at the end of the track. And in the meantime, you can always enjoy a Heineken.

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Dan Gaul
Dan Gaul is a technology leader, author and speaker with over 24 years of experience in the digital media industry. He…
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