Why big beer brands are targeting men with clothing collections

Once, showing your love for your favorite beer meant buying a logo T-shirt or cap. Thankfully, there are more refined options now.

For its #Heineken100 program, Heineken works with designers and boutiques to create a line of subtly branded menswear. One hundred fashion influencers are then given Heineken-branded duffel bags, shoes, backpacks and leather goods from each designer or boutique collaboration, essentially creating a street team of brand ambassadors.

“The type of beer you’re holding is a reflection of who you are,” said Quinn Kilbury, Heineken’s senior brand director. “It’s important for us to have a good connection with our customers that’s more than just liquid — we’re saying it’s not just what you drink.”

Heineken is sold in 192 countries, making it the most widely circulated beer in the world. But the craft beer craze is hyper-localized, Kilbury said, so Heineken is going after those aficionados by enlisting local experts.

“We understand cities,” said Kilbury. “So we try to find the lens for that point of view by partnering with people who know the city inside and out. That combo of having the global point of view and the local point of view — that’s the sweet point we’re trying to get to.”

Heineken isn’t actually selling any of the items from its partnerships, so it can’t measure the success of the collections by sales. Kilbury said success is measured by the lasting relationships built with the influencers. This year, local influencers in New York, L.A., Chicago, Boston and Miami are making Heineken-branded city guide books to give away for free in local stores.

Kilbury also noted that items from the collections have sold on eBay for a good amount of money. There’s currently a pair of Mark McNairy-Heineken saddle Chukka boots, complete with Heineken-green soles, on the site for $390.

Heineken isn’t the only mass-produced brew wanting to win over the upscale beer drinker. Miller High Life launched its High Life Heritage collection this month, a throwback series of beer bottles harkening back to the company’s 160-year history. To complement the bottles, High Life recruited Chicago-based menswear company Stock Manufacturing Co. to create a six-piece collection inspired by High Life.

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 3.27.47 PM
From the Stock x High Life collection.

“They gave us creative freedom as well as access to 100 years of their archives,” said Mike Morarity, Stock Manufacturing Co.’s creative director. “So we went through that and tried to depict the High Life drinker.”

What resulted was a sportsman’s jacket, a denim jacket stitched with Miller’s 1998 Girl on The Moon logo, pants and T-shirts.

“Overall, they wanted to create a cool image — and what company doesn’t want to do that?” said Morarity.

Miller High Life will have to invest a lot more in its dedication to menswear to compete with Heineken, though. The brand can say “with certainty” that it will continue its already-seasoned marketing initiative.

“You can’t catch us if we’re moving and evolving,” said Coltrane Curtis, founder and managing partner of agency Team Epiphany, who works with Heineken. “It’s the same program, but it bobs and weaves every year and hangs on to what’s new.”

Images via Heineken

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