Alison Payne

We’ve all been forced to pivot during the pandemic. This sweeping re-evaluation of our activities and place in society gives even greater emphasis for the need to create gender equality and diversity. It shows the importance of more female leadership in our industry. At HEINEKEN USA, having gender equality as a priority of our company and having a female leader at the helm helps demonstrate this. Our CEO, Maggie Timoney, is a great inspiration to me and leads with incredible empathy.

For us, gender equality is particularly important in a male-dominated beer industry. We always looked at what role women play across our brands in advertising to make sure everyone is fairly represented. For our sponsorship of College Football with Dos Equis, we have built relationships with key figures like sports analyst Maria Taylor and ESPN host Katie Nolan. Our work with them goes beyond just posting for us on social media – they have become true partners and friends of the brand.

In the time of COVID-19, we have had to change direction many times, one being with our second-biggest Mexican brand, Tecate. We repositioned the brand from being driven by masculinity to supporting the maverick spirit of what it means to be Mexican American, regardless of gender. We are connecting with our consumers on a much deeper level and celebrating who they are: “200% authentic —100% American and 100% Mexican.”

Because the pandemic disproportionately impacts Mexican Americans, Tecate launched Mexico is In Us, a purpose-driven campaign, which also has an element to help those in the community who lost their jobs. We also leveraged our more traditional marketing efforts to raise money for a charity called No Us Without You (who were created at the start of the pandemic) through designer-branded merchandise. In addition, we moved a planned series of real-life music events to be live streamed as a virtual concert series called Tecate El Patio featuring Mexican American musicians performing for fans to enjoy in the comfort of their own homes. Our next El Patio concert is being led by an all-female lineup, headlined by Mexican folksinger Natalie Lafourcade. Be sure to tune in 9pm ET, October 30th.

What we have found is that these challenging times have forced a change in how we talk to consumers while remaining authentic to our brands. For us, we evolved our marketing to focus on how our brands play a role in people enjoying life a bit more—something we all desperately need—while socializing in a safe way.

If we think again about our Dos Equis sponsorship of college football, where we activate around tailgating – the pandemic has now made these moments unsafe. So instead, we developed a program called SOS—Save Our Saturdays—where fans can win a selection of “most interesting tailgate gear” delivered to them in our Dos Equis SOS El Camino Response Vehicle to allow them to tailgate anything, safely at home.

Looking ahead, I don’t think this pandemic will force us back to where we were. Our brands will continue to play a role in representing resilience, flexibility and creativity in the face of great challenges. I was raised by a father with four kids and I’m the middle daughter. My dad never treated me or my sisters any different from my brother. He made sure we knew we could achieve anything we wanted in life, and I carry that mindset with me always.