It was Saturday, May 12, 2018. In clear blue skies, in twos and threes, they arrived the King’s Courtyard, Ikpeazu Stadium, Onitsha, Anambra State. Beaming with enthusiasm, they chatted animatedly about what the day held. Their enthusiasm was not unexpected; a sense of anticipation had been created. For two weeks, word had gone round that a major corporate activity, laced with local identity, was in the works. His Royal Highness, Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe, the revered Obi of Onitsha, would superintend the occasion. Then, on Friday, May 11, 2018, Onitsha, the commercial hub of eastern Nigeria, experienced a heightened traffic of the people and vehicles from across the country into the city and its environs.
Then the D-day came. As it turned out, it was not just a big company conducting a big launch; it was a popular product earning recognition for being an integral part of the people. Hero, a premium lager on the stable of International Breweries Plc, a subsidiary of the world’s largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev, (AB InBev) was being knighted with a new crown cork -a Red Cork and the title of “Mmanya Ejiri Mara Igbo.”
Traditional and community leaders were in attendance, along with corporates, public figures, trade partners, distributors and the community at large – all of who enthusiastically came together to witness Hero’s further induction into the people’s culture while reinforcing a long and healthy relationship.
His Royal Highness, Igwe Achebe, represented by Engineer Okey Ononye, Onowu Iyase of Onitsha, gave his blessing to commence the red cap ceremony. One after another, the people expressed fulfillment that International Breweries Plc did not just site a plant in Onitsha, but also introduced a brand that has connected directly with the culture and aspirations of the people.
The red cap ideology is of high importance to the South Eastern people of Nigeria as it represents the peak of achievement, societal status and recognition for any individual. Launched into the Nigerian market in August 2012 without much fanfare, Hero lager beer steadily warmed its way into the hearts of consumers in the South Eastern region and became a symbol of inspiration. The success of the brand draws from its strategic cultural resonance with the people and has catapulted Hero Lager from zero to a market leader in the region. Furthermore, consumers have christened Hero, ‘Oh Mpa’, in reverence and as a mark of respect and common value (Mpa means father in Igbo language).
The event expectedly lived up to its billing as it became a thrilling voyage of cultural displays, musical performances, comedy and drama. It was such an experiential experience and achieved not just awareness for Hero lager beer but further affection and love for the brand.
Speaking when he received the International Breweries Plc team in his palace, HRH, Igwe Achebe gave a warm welcome to his guests and spoke glowingly about the affinity between the brand and the people, while praying for a long-term involvement of the company in the community via investments, employment, empowerment and social corporate responsibility. He commended the management of the company for the honour of commemorating the milestone in Onitsha, the commercial nerve-centre of Anambra State and home to one of its plants.
The event, he said, speaks to the fact that International Breweries Plc., values and appreciates the people of the community wherein it operates, adding that since the inception of the brewery in Onitsha, International Breweries Plc.,has not only created jobs for the people but has also being very supportive of activities in the area. “I must commend the efforts of the company. This is surely worthy of emulation. Today, as we knight Hero lager beer and award it the title of “Mmanya Ejiri Mara Igbo” (A symbol of inspiration), our prayer is that the brand continues to do well.” Hero became the first beer brand to be awarded a symbolic title in Nigeria.
The unveiling event was designed both to commemorate another phase in the evolution of Hero as well reiterating the AB InBev’s commitment to the socio-economic development of Nigeria.
Marketing Director, International Breweries Plc., Arne Rust, said the ceremony represents the essence of the brand. “Through this ceremony, we hope to inspire consumers to be heroes every day and in every way. We have great plans for our consumers in Nigeria, part of which includes strategically launching several beer brands to suit specific geography and cultures. Hero is a well-established brand in the eastern part of the country. International Breweries Plc.genuinely cares for the culture and tradition of the people, and we will consistently seek ways to showcase our culture and positively impact the society,” he said.
He closed his remarks by pledging the commitment of International Breweries Plc to sustain a win-win match between the people and Hero, especially for a product they understand, associate with and have personalized.
On his part, Marketing Manager Hero Lager, International Breweries Plc., Nigeria, Okoli Obum, said, Hero Lager, through its composition, taste, and essence, embodies the spirit of Ndigbo–spirit of courage, tenacity, strength to achieve and be recognized for their achievements,importantly all Nigerian consumers openly identify with these values for which Hero Lager stands for“We want to use this opportunity to show our appreciation to our eastern brothers who have received the Hero lager beer as one of their own. Since we introduced this beer to the Nigerian market, the brand has since found expression within and beyond the region due its affinity with the Igbos, who are predominantly traders and travel extensively across borders for commercial endeavours.it has clearly found its way into the taste buds of beer drinkers first in South East Nigeria and other parts of Nigeria. The people are happy and proudly indentify with this excellent quality beer – for this, we say thank you.”
The red capping of Hero ran as an integrated marketing campaign during which people and Nigerian men were rewarded in recognition of their efforts and mission to “Go! Be the Hero.” As sponsors of the FIFA World Cup 2018, Hero will be wishing the national team farewell as they leave for Russia with the unveiling of the world’s biggest football message written with people-“Eagles Be Fearless, Go Be The Hero.”
Obum noted that International Breweries Plc is a proud part of the world’s largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev, (AB InBev). International Breweries Plc was established in 1971 and was listed on The Nigerian Stock Exchange in 1995. The Company AB InBev consolidated its business stakes in Pabod Breweries Limited, Intafact Beverages Limited into its majority ownership of International Breweries Plc in a merger that was concluded in December, 2017.
Anheuser-Busch InBev, AB InBev, which pledges to rise to every occasion, is the world’s largest brewer with over 400 beer brands. Its dream is to bring people together for a better world. Beer, the original social network, has been bringing people together for thousands of years. The company is committed to building great brands that stand the test of time and to brewing the best beers using the finest natural ingredients, Obum concluded.