If you go down to Piccadilly Circus today (20 September), you will encounter a giant bottle of Peroni, its condensation dripping under the beating Amalfi sun. Of the 28.8 million passers-by, close to the tantalising 3D billboard, there is a conveniently placed local Nastro Azzurro pub for beer drinkers to quench their thirst. After a long lockdown and limited travel, Peroni is bringing the beer and a bit of Italy directly to you.
For many, alcohol has been their saviour in the past 18 months. A welcome tonic, it helped soothe the emotional stress of lockdown after lockdown. Even so, with people unable to seek refuge in their usual bars, pubs and clubs, alcohol brands bore the brunt.
Not invulnerable to this bad hangover, Peroni and its parent brand Asahi reported slumped sales as a result. One of Italy's most iconic exports, Peroni's artistic direction has always had a strong focus on the sea and sailing world. Now, Peroni’s post-pandemic "Live every moment" push is putting the wind back into its sails (and sales).
“It’s a brand that has historically changed the larger landscape over the past 15 years. We’re at a point where we need to accelerate that growth,” explains Jonathan Norman, global brands director, Asahi UK. “We want to grow that position, which means we’re taking a different approach to a lot of our brand building.”
A major tenet in this change in direction is Trouble Maker. An end-to-end content, media and distribution agency, it launched during the pandemic with Peroni as its major client.
“We have got a close agency and client relationship. Wavemaker [Peroni's media agency] and Trouble Maker work very closely together too. That’s really important," Norman says. "Creatively, whatever you develop or bring to life needs to be fit for purpose within the medium you choose. Working with an agency such as Trouble Maker, it knows the brand intimately.”
Over the past 12 months, the agency has produced some significant work. It was behind "Walk with us", a campaign focused on the time-honoured Italian tradition of La Passeggiata; it marked the titanic Uefa Euro 2020 clash between England and Italy by rebranding Peroni as Leoni (the Italian for lion); and now, its core creative idea "Live every moment" is working to bring sell more beer, as restrictions lift.
The campaign first broke back in July. Serving up some Mediterranean holiday porn to the staycation-maddened UK public, the film captured a group of pals enjoying a Peroni-fuelled holiday on the Amalfi Coast, which recognised people’s desires for freedom and release.
“We spent a lot of time social listening to our audience, taking temperature checks and understanding the pulse of the nation,” Norman explains when asked how the team ensured they stuck the right chord. “Through that, you see a lot of fluctuations through your audience in terms of both emotional needs and what they’re looking for. So we keep a close check on that.”
As Peroni looks to accelerate growth, it is hoping to reach 87% of beer drinkers internationally. Taking over Piccadilly Lights from 20-30 September is one approach it hopes will help it achieve that goal.
"It's our showcase piece at a premium and impactful site," Norman explains. "From an outdoor perspective, it's a hugely iconic site. Not only is it a beer category first, but Peroni is one of the first brands to take it into the 3D space."
Beyond the bespoke Piccadilly Circus takeover, its hero creative "Il pit stop" which showcases the Aston Martin Cognizant Formula 1 partnership, plans to reach 8.8 million people with the silver spot of the long-awaited James Bond film, No Time to Die.
And the brand new "Azzurro di Peroni" creative will be used across the rest of the campaign to cement Peroni Nastro Azzurro’s premium credentials in the build-up to Christmas across premium scale TV, VOD, digital and social media.
Another area for growth is Asahi’s shift to no-alcohol beer. As consumers seek wellness products following Covid-19, it saw exponential growth this year.
In Europe, sales of Asahi’s non-alcohol brew grew 10% in 2020, driven by the popularity of Birell and Peroni Libera. Keen to crack the market, Asahi has said it wants to quadruple its ratio of non-alcoholic drink sales in Europe by 2030, from 5.1% last year.
“In some senses, Peroni is a treat. You’d like to drink it every day, but that’s not advisable," Norman explains, on the virtues of the no-alcohol beer category. "It’s a massive trend and we commit to making 20% of our portfolio non-alcoholic by 2030. So there is an opportunity. It’s not a fad, it’s a spin-off."
As Peroni looks to 2030, Norman says that this year is all about cementing the roots of the brand, as the number one super-premium beer brand in the market. "Moving forward, we want to grow our position in that space," he admits.
"We’ll do that by driving ahead with our premium credentials but reaching a wider audience with impactful, captivating communications. This period, in terms of our investment in media, is the biggest yet; we’re going to be reaching 87% of beer drinkers nationally, which is really significant."