Latest Case Studies

Castle Lager and Brand Union

1 September 2014
Mention Castle Lager and any South African will have a sentimental story to tell. It is without a doubt, a genuine South African icon and forms a big part of the unification of the nation’s heritage. After an exciting 5-year journey in collaboration with the Castle Lager brand team and their agency partners, we’ve managed to bring this brand back to life, making it relevant for a broad spectrum of audiences, while claiming back its true status as; The beer of a nation.
Castle Lager and Brand Union
Project title

One nation. One beer.

Theme

Re-establishing an iconic South African brand.

Executive Overview

Mention Castle Lager and any South African will have a sentimental story to tell. It is without a doubt, a genuine South African icon and forms a big part of the unification of the nation’s heritage. After an exciting 5-year journey in collaboration with the Castle Lager brand team and their agency partners, we’ve managed to bring this brand back to life, making it relevant for a broad spectrum of audiences, while claiming back its true status as; The beer of a nation.

Context: What was the brand's challenge?

In 1895, Charles Glass originated Castle Lager, a beer that would grow to become a South African icon. Castle Lager commanded a majority share of the South African beer market in 1998, however by 2008 the brand had lost more than half of this share. 

Castle 01

Times were changing. A new generation of drinkers were arising and they were choosing newer and more aspirational alternatives. The brand tried to appeal to this market by following the individualistic, aspirational trend, consequently moving away from its true essence and costing the brand its connection with its core market.

Growing competition and a looming recession in 2010 added to the struggle. A further decline in sales put the brand at serious risk of losing its iconic status as South Africa’s favourite beer. We couldn’t let that happen.

We delved into the past in order to understand what made Castle Lager great in the first place. We used social media sites to show how people actually expressed the brand for themselves. 

Castle 02

The findings were clear – historically Castle Lager had been considered an egalitarian, inclusive brand that brought people together. Having deviated from this essence, consumers had no reason to rally behind the brand anymore. The brand had left behind the strong associations that made it a South African icon for over a century: friendship, belonging, togetherness and a patriotic South African spirit. The brand had to get back to its roots and once again become the catalyst that brings South Africans together.

Castle 03

Castle Lager needed to get back in the hearts and minds of South Africans and this required all agency partners to pull together to re-establish Castle Lager as a brand, not just an institution within South Africa. If Castle Lager was going to survive, it needed to show consistent growth, in both profit and volume.

Solution: What was the output? 

In partnership with WPP stable mates Ogilvy, we went back to where Castle Lager started and defined the brand positioning statement: ‘It all comes together with a CASTLE’. This became the new brand pay-off line and underpinning theme for the new brand strategy.

Castle 04

We revitalised the brand’s identity and created a set of ownable brand assets that could be used across multiple channels, touch-points and environments. Once these assets had been established and accepted by the market, we unpacked what properties the brand could own and executed these properties (i.e. Sport, Braai and South African friendship) consistently to the appropriate audiences.

Castle 05

Ultimately we tapped into what makes us proudly South African, thereby enabling the brand to stretch across a massive consumer target audience. Key to this approach was the understanding that our role was to lay the foundation for the brand (visually, tonally and experientially) and that Ogilvy and other agencies would activate communication using this platform.

Too often communication agencies create work in isolation of the brand’s core assets to create campaign impact, but this approach created fresh consistency for the brand across all channels and beyond the campaign.

Effect: What was the immediate impact on the Brand? 

From the time that the refreshed look and feel, and communication launched in 2009, Castle Lager has regained market share, leading to a substantial increase in volume, and a consistent year-on-year growth for the first time since 2009.

Castle 06

The effective collaboration between the Castle Lager brand team and key agencies has grown from strength to strength during this time. We have helped a national beer regain its status through strong sports sponsorship properties, and have made a mainstream beer popular in a very premium beer dominated market.

Castle Lager was awarded the Mercatus Award in early 2013 as the most outstanding brand in the SABMiller global portfolio consisting of 227 brands from across the world. It was a truly proud moment for us.

Our latest efforts on the range extension into Castle 1895 Draught earned Brand Union the SAB Golden Circle award for excellence in living the brand.

A true testament to our passion for this iconic brand.

Value: How was the brand’s value affected?

Whilst we are unable to quote direct market share information, the brand has more than doubled its market share since 2009. Volumes have risen significantly ahead of the category average. 

“It is critical that everything we do has synergy and is aligned across our agency partners, and interestingly a company like Brand Union works across all of our partners to ensure that everything we do has a consistent look and feel. They are our brand integrity partner.”

Alastair Hewitt
General Manager:  Castle Lager and Sport Sponsorship 

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