Sapporo fuses music from east to west

The beer brand helps artists collaborate from lockdown as it looks to close the gap in the imported beer category.

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Inter-country travel is likely off the table for some time, but Sapporo is helping facilitate cross-cultural collaborations from lockdown as the brand looks to continue to march towards being a top import beer choice for Canadians.

The brand looks to do so through its latest campaign, called “Duos,” which is pairing musicians from Japan and Canada to show that artistic collaborations can still happen in these trying times.

The first video in the campaign shows J-pop artist Punipunidenki at her studio in Tokyo, collaborating virtually with Toronto-based hip hop and electronic producer Memorecks on a new song. The video focuses on the pair discussing their musical influences, philosophies and going through their creative process, though the brand does feature – at one point during the video Memorecks uses the top of Sapporo can as a percussion instrument, stroking the top of it with a brush.

Two more videos featuring other musical pairings will be released in the coming weeks. The output from all three pairings is featured on “Duos,” a three-song EP that was released on Spotify last week.

Dana Brochu, director of marketing for Sleeman Breweries, says the campaign is focused on the cultural results that happen when “east meets west,” which has been a focus in the brand’s advertising for several years. This campaign was about giving back to the creative community, in a time when artists are stuck creating music in isolation.

“We’ve been called more of a curator of showing ways that fusion, or reciprocity, between Japanese culture and North American culture,” she says. ”What we’ve done now is actually created more of the catalyst for those situations.”

Music and beer align nicely with Sapporo’s target audience, Brochu says, which is primarily comprised of “people who are ahead of the trends,” with interests in art and culture. Brochu adds the intersection of these things are rooted in some of the equities Sapporo has already cultivated in music, be it through the creative in past campaigns, creating music documentaries or partnerships in the EDM space with events such as Igloofest and All Day I Dream.

By creating more of a connection with consumers and familiarity with the brand, Sapporo is looking to grow its position in Canada’s import beer category. Brochu says Sapporo currently ranks fourth among import beers, but it has been growing “aggressively” to close the “far gap” between Sapporo and the number one import brand. The brand experienced double-digit growth in retail sales last year, Brochu says.

“It’s about continuing to raise awareness of the brand with consumers, to continue to demonstrate our Japanese culture and how Sapporo represents that fusion in terms of principle around brewing and beer.”

According to the most recent data from Beer Canada, sales of imported beer have dipped since March, including a 15% year-over-year decline in April, though it bounced back by 4% in June.

Brand discovery for Sapporo happens on-premise in Japanese restaurants, and although these have reopened across the country, Brochu notes that they are operating at a fraction of their normal capacity due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. Brochu says the brand still has its eye on these on-premise venues and occasions, and is looking to keep that side of Sapporo’s business “healthy,” but adds that it has been looking to the retail side of Sapporo’s business, which has been showing positive business momentum.

The new campaign – led by The&Partnership, with media by Jungle – is running online through paid digital and social. Audio and companion banners on Spotify will be live in September.