Steinlager’s relationship with the All Blacks started the year before the successful 1987 Rugby World Cup. Fittingly, with the next New Zealand instalment just a few months away, 2011 marks 25 years of ‘Unconditional Support’, so to celebrate the milestone Lion is bringing back the classic white can and, with the help of DDB, launching a big new ad campaign.
Of course, no sponsorship arrangement is truly unconditional (particularly one that involves the regulations of the NZRU and a booze company). The companies don’t just pay for warm fuzzies, they pay to get something out of it. But you probably get its drift: win or lose, ‘New Zealand’s finest’ has been the name on the side of the All Blacks since ages ago, whether on the jerseys themselves or on the classic pun-laden posters of yore that many true rugby fans would have had on their wall.
Steinlager is the longest standing sponsor of the All Blacks (second place might go to Ford, which has been there for 17 years) but it was much simpler back in the day. Now, heroes of the young are not allowed to be used to promote alcohol and there are a lot more restrictions on Lion than on many of the other sponsors due to the product it’s selling. But that doesn’t mean Lion doesn’t bask in the glory of its relationship when it can, as evidenced by the big picture of Richie McCaw and John Key hanging in the Lion lobby showing the pair sharing a Steinlager Pure in the dressing room after a test match.
Todd Gordon, Lion’s premium beer marketing manager, says it’s no secret this year will be one of the greatest for New Zealand and New Zealand rugby. And, from a marketing perspective, the battle between the two major beer rivals—Heineken, which sponsors the Rugby World Cup and Steinlager with the All Blacks—will be a good one to watch. Each side believes it has the best sponsorship property and Gordon has said there will be no attempt to crash Heineken’s party with any ambush marketing. But a range of brands are looking at how to implicitly allude to the ‘Big Rugby Event’ without actually mentioning it. For Steinlager, no matter how careful it is, it seems almost impossible not to reference the tournament, given it’s such an important occasion for the All Blacks and the nation really, really wants them to win it.
DDB, which won the project off Publicis Mojo earlier this year, was behind the campaign and has also created a new TV ad that shows a group of die-hard All Blacks fans who have been supporting their favourite team for the past 25 years. A WETA-based makeup team was on hand to ‘age’ the group and bring them from 25 years ago into the present.
Steinlager’s Classic white can, which was first produced in 1981 and discontinued in 1992, will be making its return for a limited time from July 3, as will a limited edition black bottle that can be found on premise at all Steinlager bars.