Hill Street asks Canadians to go alcohol-free

The non-alcoholic beverage company is leveraging a "Dry January" movement in its first integrated marketing campaign.
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With the launch of its first integrated marketing campaign, alcohol-free wine and beer brand Hill Street Beverage Co. is encouraging Canadians to begin the year by abstaining from alcohol – a challenge made easier by its non-alcoholic beverage alternatives.

Leveraging a movement known as Dry January, which began in the U.K. in 2013 and has rapidly grown in popularity, the company has debuted its inaugural Hill Street Challenge. By stating their intentions to go dry for the month of January, participants in the challenge can help one of two charitable partners – the Arthritis Society of Canada or Prostate Cancer Canada – win a $10,000 donation by supporting each organization through specific hashtags (#DryForArthritis or #PCC) on social. The charity that receives the most hashtag mentions on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram from now until Jan. 31 will earn the prize.

Hill Street is supporting the effort with five online ads that humorously portray the benefits of taking a hiatus from drinking. In one, a young man is seen cracking a non-alcoholic cold one with a police officer after having been pulled over and asked to walk a straight line. In another, surgeons pause for non-alcoholic refreshments during surgery. Three additional ads emphasize other benefits that come with choosing non-alcoholic beverages: better decision-making, a healthier prostate, and greater stamina in bed.

As part of the media strategy, Canadian media personalities, including Fred Patterson (from the Humble & Fred morning show) and Neil Hedley, Sam Houston and Jane Brown from Zoomer Breakfast Radio are taking the challenge and will be discussing their progress throughout the month. In addition, three radio spots are airing on several stations across the GTA. Markham, Ontario-based Brandfire Marketing Group led on campaign strategy, creative development, media buying and website creation for the Hill Street Challenge, while partnerships were negotiated in-house.

Last summer, Hill Street ran a much smaller version of the campaign with Zoomer Radio as a proof-of-concept and decided to expand the concept after the initial trial run. Including a charitable component was a no-brainer, says David Pullara, Hill Street’s CMO, considering that social giving is built into its business model: a portion of all its sales are donated to charity, and it has so far raised $1.7 in support of its partners.

“We intuitively knew that most people spend the month of December over-indulging on food and alcohol and would be receptive to making a positive change when January came around,” says Pullara, who was named the company’s first CMO in May. Company research conducted in December confirmed the brand’s assumption: it found that one in seven Canadian drinkers meets the Center for Disease Control’s definition of “excessive drinker” and that 41% of consumers have either abstained or considered abstaining from alcohol.

“The Hill Street Challenge is really about giving people permission to go alcohol-free by highlighting the benefits of doing so, engaging a community of others who also want to make a positive change in their life, and introducing a social-giving aspect to the campaign as an added incentive,” Pullara says.

The non-alcoholic wine and beer market is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the global beverage industry, according to research by Mintel. In Canada, the segment has seen annual growth rates of more than 20% a year over the last several years. In response, some the world’s largest beer companies are adding non-alcoholic drinks to their portfolios.

Hill Street’s own revenue grew 112% year-over-year for the period ended Sept. 30, 2018, although Pullara says it’s biggest marketing challenge remains brand awareness. The company is also looking to expand its portfolio with other non-alcoholic options, and is currently working towards launching a line of cannabis-infused beverages.