Carlsberg Group is using soccer to support its global growth ambitions.

The Danish brewer—the world’s fourth-largest beer company behind Anheuser-Busch InBev, SABMiller and Heineken—is using soccer to support a two-year-old global marketing initiative designed to rejuvenate its flagship brand and achieve its objective of becoming the world’s fastest-growing global beer company.

The marketing campaign—which includes the new “That calls for a Carlsberg” tagline—is designed to celebrate the brand’s heritage and values and connect the brew to today’s “active, adventurous generation of beer drinkers.”

The goal of the campaign: double profits by 2015.

While Carlsberg’s green logo is known throughout the world, sales of the beverage do not measure up to brand recognition, said Jorgen Buhl Rasmussen, Carlsberg CEO, in a statement announcing the marketing initiative.  

“Although international recognition is good, it is not enough. We are investing significantly in the Carlsberg brand, widening our distribution channels and making every effort to get closer to our customers and consumers.”

As part of that effort, Carlsberg in 2011 conducted a strategic review of its sponsorship portfolio to ensure it is fully maximizing the partnerships in support of the initiative.

The portfolio includes long-running ties with soccer leagues and teams including the UEFA European Championship (eight years), Liverpool F.C. (21 years) and Arsenal F.C. (three years).

Carlsberg uses soccer to reach twenty-something men and support it’s positioning as a global premium brand, said Michael Thompson, Carlsberg’s director of marketing.

“Men in their early twenties are interested in beer, soccer and one other thing. We can help them with beer and football.”

Soccer also helps support Carlsberg’s positioning as a brand that goes beyond expectations, he added.

“We want to be a brand that punches above our weight.”

The strategic review resulted in two primary conclusions: The need for a soccer platform that provides frequent reach in new and emerging markets and the importance of activation in bringing the Carlsberg message to life in markets around the world.

To support its goal of increasing frequency, Carlsberg earlier this year announced a three-year partnership with the Barclays Premier League.

The partnership—which affords a marketing platform 38 weekends each year—fills a void in the brand’s portfolio. UEFA Euro affords a global marketing platform every four years, while Liverpool, Arsenal and other teams offer primarily local reach. 

“The Barclays Premier League gives us reach and frequency that we didn’t have before,” said Thompson.

Roughly 4.7 billion consumers watch the Barclays Premier League on TV, while 6.7 million follow the league on Facebook and 2.5 million via Twitter, he said.

The Most Active Beer Companies (Worldwide)

The Most Active Beer Companies (Worldwide)

* Figures represent the percentage of properties with a beer sponsor reporting sponsorship from each company.

The partnership also helps build the Carlsberg brand in the U.S., a market where the beer has limited presence.  More than 19.1 million Americans follow the Premier League with 3.53 million supporting a specific club, said Thompson.

The league’s new three-year, $250 million deal with NBC further demonstrates the league’s growing popularity in the U.S., he added.

In addition to the Premier League, Carlsberg this year signed a three-year tie with the Chinese Super League. The sponsorship kicks off next year and runs through 2016.

The broadcast partnership supports the brand’s soccer platform in a growth market, said Thompson, noting that the Premier League is also popular in Asia.

Doubles Down On Activation
In addition to gaining more frequency, Carlsberg is placing more focus on activation platforms that provide a consistent voice across multiple markets.

Carlsberg is activating the Premier League with a global TV ad that taps into consumers’ passion for soccer. The ad is designed to replicate the rollercoaster of emotions that soccer fans go through every game and every season.

The TV ad—dubbed “The ride”—features Steven Gerrard, David Silva and other Premier League players, coaches and stakeholders on a roller coaster.

“We put 200 people on one of the world’s largest roller coasters and filmed their facial expressions. It’s the same emotions you go through during the ups and downs of a soccer match,” said Thompson.

The TV ad is part of an integrated marketing campaign that includes out-of-home, PR and on- and off-premise accounts.

In addition to activation programs that provide a consistent voice across multiple markets, Carlsberg also is placing more focus on digital platforms and experiential marketing as a result of the sponsorship audit. 

On the digital front, Carlsberg activated the 2012 UEFA European Championship with the UEFA Euro smart phone app. The app—which offered international soccer news, updated statistics and other content—was downloaded by 2.7 million consumers.

Carlsberg also stepped up experiential marketing during Euro 2012. That included fan parks at soccer stadiums in Poland and Ukraine where consumers could drink beer, watch games and participate in various activities.

Carlsberg engaged seven million consumers during the 32-day tournament, said Thompson.

Carlsberg measures success on two fronts: brand perceptions and incremental sales. Brand metrics include brand tracking and media exposure, while sales metrics include on-site sales and seasonal uplifts.

London-based OMD Fuse helps Carlsberg develop sponsorship strategy.

Other Carlsberg Group brands include Tuborg and Baltika. Tuborg focuses sponsorship activity on music (Roskilde, Glastonbury, Exit Festival, etc.) while Baltika in late 2012 announced a partnership Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.

Baltika also serves as the official beer supplier of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.