Heineken’s “coalition for youth sobriety”

How market research helped Heineken design a highly successful CSR campaign to raise awareness of the risks of underage drinking

By Zywiec and Maison & Partners Research


Measuring the impact of public awareness campaigns fighting underage drinking

Zywiec Group, a Polish brewery belonging to Heineken, decided to undertake a CSR campaign to encourage responsible drinking amongst Polish youths under 16. They were however, facing difficulties with their target group and teenagers’ renowned ‘resistance to compliance bias’ to public opinion. To ensure the effectiveness of the campaign and have any hope of truly changing behaviour, Heineken needed to understand clearly the attitudes and behaviours of teens regarding drinking, and their underlying motivations.


Qualitative and qualitative research

The first step of the research was a “bulletin board” where they invited 60 teenagers from all over Poland to participate in a 3-weeks online community. The participants were asked to complete 17 verbal and non-verbal tasks related to alcohol and their lifestyle by submitting photos and videos, giving their opinions and participating to chat groups. Then a nationwide, representative, pen and paper survey of a sample of 2325 pupils from 40 Polish cities, aged 13-16 was carried out in order to investigate in-depth into their lifestyle. After the CSR campaign was implemented, a further study was conducted amongst teenagers who had been exposed to it, to evaluate its effectiveness.

So what?

Realistic targets for a successful CSR campaign

Four important findings played a major role in the future CSR campaign: 80% of the young people aged 13-16 years had already tried alcohol, and 40% of them had already gotten drunk and experienced negative consequences of alcohol drinking. The research also unearthed big psychological and lifestyle differences between three patterns of alcohol consumption: abstinent, responsible, and risky drinkers. An interesting finding was related to the role of parents in the initial introduction to drinking alcohol, and the subsequent processes of consumption. The researchers also found that alcohol drinking prevention activities had been conducted in Polish schools, but the feedback was that students found them boring, unprofessional, one sided, too passive, and lacking authority.

Heineken designed their campaign with the research results in mind, and consequently made efforts to make it highly interactive and entertaining, and also to involve parents - the resulting campaign included dance, theater, and other activities. The CSR campaign proved largely successful, as teenagers showed significantly higher consciousness of the negative risks of alcohol and demonstrated more negative attitudes towards alcohol, and an increased likelihood of discussing it with their friends.