How the drinks industry is driving COVID-19 vaccination

COVID-19 has decimated the hospitality industry around the globe, with venues in Greater Sydney alone expected to lose $700 million in the current 21 days of lockdown. The drinks industry has been pulling together to provide support and is now getting behind the vaccination push.

Westpac CEO Peter King is among the powerful voices advocating that “having more Australians vaccinated is key” to the country’s economic recovery.

“In Australia, we must now press on and not be complacent,” he said. “As we’ve learnt with COVID, there are rarely easy answers or solutions and responding quickly is key. The ramifications of what we choose are large. 

“More than a year into this unique crisis, getting vaccinated appears not only Australia’s best defence, but offence too.” 

Last week, Heineken became one of the first brands to openly position itself as being pro-vaccination. It released an ad showing a group of elderly individuals dancing in a nightclub and then frolicking in the sea while drinking beer.

A cover of Sylvester’s 1970s disco anthem, “Mighty Real,” plays in the background and the clip ends with the message: “The night belongs to the vaccinated. Time to join them.”

The ad “celebrates a group of vaccinated seniors who are able to safely get back out to enjoy bars and clubs and socialise again – something we’re all looking forward to,” a Heineken spokesperson told Yahoo Finance UK.

“It is all about supporting the hospitality industry and getting back to the bars and restaurants safely so we can all be together again,” they added.

However, the ad has attracted intense controversy, with a campaign by anti-vaxxers resulting in the hashtag #BoycottHeineken trending on Twitter. Some users even posted videos of themselves pouring the beer down kitchen sinks in protest.

Fellow drinks industry giant AB InBev joined with the US Government earlier this year to help the White House reach its goal of having 70% of adults partially vaccinated by July 4. AB InBev promised to buy Americans a round of beer, seltzer or non-alcoholic beverage to celebrate the milestone.

Additionally, Budweiser released a digital film entitled “Go Fourth, America” that puts a modern-day spin on the iconic presidential speech from the movie Independence Day.

In the film, actor Bill Pullman reprises his famous fictional presidential role for the first time in 25 years, using his platform to encourage America to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday.  As a part of its ongoing commitment to aiding recovery from the pandemic, “Go Fourth, America” also highlights a donation from Budweiser to Direct Relief, a humanitarian aid organisation focused on enabling vaccine access in both the US and globally. Since the onset of the pandemic, Direct Relief has supported 50 US states and 105 countries, all with the overarching goal of global vaccine distribution and COVID-19 relief.

“AB InBev and our brands have always been there for the moments that matter, and this is undoubtedly one of those moments,” said Marcel Marcondes, Chief Marketing Officer. “Throughout the pandemic, our brands have pivoted their plans to best reach and serve our consumers.”

“I can’t imagine a better or more meaningful moment to reprise this iconic role than Independence Day this year,” said Pullman. “I am proud to partner with Budweiser on its continued efforts to promote COVID-19 vaccination awareness and education. While the world has overcome so much in the past year and a half, there is still more work to be done. I hope this film can serve as a beacon of hope and progress for our country and beyond.”

“We are so honoured that after 25 years, Bill Pullman has chosen to work with Budweiser to reprise a role that for so many, holds a special place in their hearts,” added Daniel Blake, Group VP Marketing, Budweiser & Value at AB InBev. “Both Bill and Budweiser share similar beliefs in the value of perseverance and the importance of coming together against a common enemy – first aliens and now a global pandemic.” 

Another drinks industry stalwart, Sam Adams, has also promoted a beer giveaway, with consumers needing to post a photo of their sticker or bandage on Twitter or Instagram, tag @samadamsbeer and use the hashtag #shotforsam to collect their reward of $5 through Cash App to spend on brews. 

Campari builds vaccination centre in Italy

Campari Group has collaborated with Gruppo MultiMedica to create a corporate vaccination centre in Milan. The centre is designed to vaccinate to the largest possible number of workers of Lombard-region companies, in the shortest time possible.

A disused building in the historic headquarters of Ercole Marelli, in Sesto San Giovanni, was used to create the Extraordinary Territorial Vaccinal Center. It has 10 vaccine lines and is able to guarantee up to 200 vaccine administrations per hour, for a total of 2000 per day.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Campari Group has been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 through donations, the production of sanitizing gel when it was not available and activities in support of institutions, hospitals and local communities in the various countries where we operate. In continuity with this commitment, we are proud to support the MultiMedica Group in this important initiative on our territory: a concrete action to support the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in a crucial phase for the restart of the country,” said Bob Kunze-Concewitz, CEO of Campari Group.

In Japan, beverage maker Suntory is among thousands of companies distributing COVID-19 vaccines to workers and their families in a drive to accelerate the nation’s slow vaccine rollout. It plans to inoculate 51,500 people, including part-time workers and employees’ families, with the Moderna vaccine.

AHA joins drinks industry vaccination drive

In Australia, the hospitality industry employs approximately 851,000 people – 6.5% of the total workforce – and it’s been hit hard by rolling COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions.

Last week, associations including the AHA and Restaurant and Catering attended a forum hosted by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to discuss their role in the vaccine rollout.

The Operation COVID Shield National Business Partnership Forum, looked at ways industries including hospitality can speed up the vaccination rollout by using their premises, communicating to staff and the public, and offering incentives.

AHA National CEO Stephen Ferguson said the drinks industry was gearing up to play a vital part in the Australian vaccination roll out, with the possibility that hotels in remote areas may become future vaccine hubs.

“Hotels have four million unique visitors a year and pubs and accommodation hotels employ 25,0000 people,” he said. “We have an important role to play help to get the message out.” 

It’s a strategy that worked in Israel to motivate younger people to get the jab – the city of Tel Aviv, for example, set up a mobile vaccination station at a local pub and offering a free drink to anyone who showed up to get their first injection.

“Free beer and free shots for those vaccinated” read an advertisement in the Jenia bar in Tel Aviv. In collaboration with Ichilov Hospital and Magen David Adom (the Israeli Red Cross), it managed to vaccinate more than 2245 people in its first weekend of operation.

Last week, Scott Morrison vowed to intervene on behalf of a Melbourne pub that was banned from giving out free beer last week as an incentive for punters to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Prince Alfred Hotel in Port Melbourne announced it would offer a free beer to anyone who got the COVID-19 vaccination at a nearby Town Hall vaccination centre.

Prince Alfred Hotel; drinks industry

Co-owner Tom Streater (above) told the Herald Sun he was keen to “do our bit” to avoid future lockdowns.

“More people vaccinated means less COVID,” he said. “We can’t afford to do another year like last year. If we had to stay closed for another five to six months I’m not sure if we would come out the other side. My mate who owns a restaurant said ‘thank god you’re doing something about it’.”

Streater estimated about 500 extra people got vaccinated at the hub this week because of the pub’s initiative.

However, the Therapeutic Goods Administration contacted the pub to say alcoholic vaccine incentives were banned. Morrison told Sunrise the government is working to “get it sorted” for the pub. 

“The TGA is doing a good job, the rules are there for important reasons,” he told Sunrise. “It is a sensible rule, but in these circumstances, the national interest is to get vaccinated, so the Prince Alfred down in Melbourne, good on you for getting behind it.”

Clubs Australia gets behind vaccination drive

CLUBS Australia has offered its 6413 venues to the federal government to accelerate the vaccine rollout according to a submission to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and COVID-19 taskforce commander Lieutenant General John Frewen.

The association is proposing a national lottery and free games of Bingo or Keno for patrons who agree to be vaccinated, in addition to encouraging its venues to offer “Schooner or a Schnitzel for a Shot”.

Landis added that clubs could use their 131,000 employees and 183,000 volunteers to assist. He noted that many have courtesy buses that could transport patrons to and from the club to receive a vaccination if they were incapable of getting there themselves.

“No stone should be left unturned when it comes to encouraging Australians to get vaccinated as a matter of urgency,” Clubs Australia CEO Josh Landis Landis told The Australian. “Any extra incentive for them to do so will only speed up that process, so we can get back to normal.”

How venues are minimising losses during lockdowns

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