Media: Strategy Analysis - Red light district gets green light in UK

Brand: Grolsch
Client: Coors Brewers
Brief: Drive sales of Grolsch in a declining market across 14 UK cities
Audience: 20- to 30-year-old premium-lager drinkers
Budget: £450,000

Media: Vizeum UK, Kinetic
Creative: Leith Edinburgh


The convention for marketing lager in the UK is a television-led approach. TV is the trade expectation for distribution deals, certainly not experiential initiatives.

Premium-lager drinkers are very discerning, yet the world a drinker experiences in a bar is rarely the same as the one painted by advertising. Grolsch communication had to surpass consumer expectations through the line, ending with a memorable drinking experience.

We knew premium-lager drinkers had been to Amsterdam as part of their "rites of passage". Reigniting memories of continental drinking would prove a valuable tool for engagement. We aimed to deliver a premium Dutch drinking experience, sparking memories of drinking abroad. Dutch bar culture was recreated by the conception of the Grolsch Green Light District.

Fourteen key areas were precisely mapped, identifying where the target audience lived, worked and drank on a Friday night. Bespoke local Green Light Media Zones were created in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Nottingham, Birmingham, Cardiff, Bristol, London (Islington and Clapham) and Brighton.

Media's role was to help provide an environment where sales and marketing worked with one common purpose, building the brand through experience. Using digital media, we would be able to successfully link together many aspects of the campaign, from on-street to in-bar.


Media directly shaped the brand and sales concept, rather than just broadcasting a message. The campaign used three levels of consumer activity: in-bar, on-street and digital.

- In-bar: In-bar staff provided an on-demand waitress service with Grolsch "buttons" on tables to alert the bar that another round was needed. Green lighting and projections dressed the interiors of all bars, completely transforming the drinking environment.

- On-street: Green zones were created by bathing bar exteriors with dramatic green floodlights and digital projections of the iconic Grolsch bottle and logo. This provided a stunning on-street presence, integrating well with selected media. Hand-picked street media created a physical zone to walk into. Interactive six-sheet maps were placed in and around meeting places, promoting the bars that were taking part.

- Digital: Digital media played an integral part in joining the dots. All activity was co-ordinated through the Grolsch website, The website acted as a central hub, which included details about each Green Light District area, together with locations of interactive maps and information about Amsterdam bars and Grolsch itself.


A sales increase of 40 per cent was delivered, with some bars recording a rise of up to 120 per cent. Distribution rose 300 per cent in selected Green Light District cities. The sales team also had real on-the-ground activity in the city to talk about with pub owners that directly drove footfall and takings.

The Green Light District is now a fundamental sales and marketing tool for the brand. Grolsch is now replicating the sales model around the country, with more Green Light Districts planned in 2007. The campaign delivered unprecedented success across the board and won a Campaign Media Award.

THE VERDICT - Marie Oldham, group strategy director, Media Planning Group

Wasn't Grolsch the brand that redefined the bottled beer category by making the bottle as important as the beer? This was my (rather dated) perception as I sat to read this strategy. However, I soon realised a whole new generation of premium-lager drinkers have arrived, and Grolsch now sits as an "established brand" in a category that often favours the new kid on the block. The 21st century premium-beer drinker can now create their own repertoire within a cluttered category and make impulse purchase decisions based on mood, the night ahead, the beer stocked by the bar they are in, what's on promotion and what their friends are drinking. Brand image needs to be complemented by front-of-mind awareness.

The first insight that really impressed me, therefore, was to take the battle of the bottles off the TV and into the bar. On-trade sales teams have known for a long time that this is where they need to fight for consumers. So, forsaking yet more awareness-building activity and instead bringing the marketing budget on to the street and working in a directional manner would provide the perfect environment for getting the trade behind the product while, at the same time, making the brand front of mind with drinkers.

The second insight around reigniting memories of visits to Amsterdam/continental drinking is a powerful one, and I liked the way this became not only a creative platform, but also an intrinsic part of the media strategy. The Green Light Districts seemed to tap into the theatre of a night out and bring the brand to life at just the right time.

However, this campaign could have been just a great "point of sale" piece, but the addition of the website and digital outdoor media helped make it bigger and more involving. It has been difficult for alcohol brands to develop a digital strategy that is relevant to the target group and doesn't seem forced. By focusing on offering the audience useful information, the campaign looks interesting and has a clear consumer benefit.

I liked this campaign and think the strategy was founded in good consumer insight. It looks like the agencies and the client sales team really worked in an integrated way. More importantly, if the sales uplifts detailed are correct, and the client is rolling it out in 2007, that has to be the biggest endorsement this strategy could get.

Score: 4 out of 5.