In Powerful New Doc, Heineken Revives Brazil’s Wildest Party Alley

Come summer 2016, all eyes will be on Rio De Janeiro, the city hosting the next Olympic Games. But even before sports fanaticism takes over, Heineken is calling attention to a near-forgotten hub of Rio’s cultural legacy in its new documentary, Beco das Garrafas.

Translated to “Bottles Alley,” Beco das Garrafas is a bar that received its name from stories of rowdy patrons getting in fights and throwing bottles along an alley. But those who were around to experience the nightlife in the 1950s and ’60s know that the place’s charm wasn’t just cultivated from riotous nightlife. Beco das Garrafas holds a beautiful secret: It was the birthplace of bossa nova, a genre of Brazilian music that has roots in both jazz and samba. Heineken was determined to uncover this buried history and revitalize the alley for a new generation of music lovers.

“Heineken called me for a strategic Branded Content & Entertainment Consultancy, [with a challenge] to expand the conversation and the resonance of the reopening of BECO,” the film’s co-producer, Patrícia Weiss, wrote to me in an email. “My recommendation was to produce a documentary telling the story about Beco das Garrafas from the point of view of ordinary people who witnessed its history.”

As a part of its “Cities of the World” campaign—created to inspire people to discover and experiences their cities through art, food, and music—Heineken is now inviting Rio de Janeiro residents to watch Beco das Garrafas to discover something new about their city.

Directed by Paula Trabulsi, a member of the International Collective of Storydoers, the film documents the rise, fall, and rebirth of the cultural epicenter of bossa nova.

“Heineken gave us complete freedom during the production of this project in the partnership,” Weiss said. “It should be an authentic and original story about people, about the cultural importance of BECO and Bossa Nova centered on people. It shouldn’t be a story about a brand talking about itself, selling product or brand image, but something really interesting and meaningful to people.”

Altogether, the film’s production took six months—not bad for a documentary that covers a history of 30 years.

As the film explains, by the end of the ’50s, Beco das Garrafas had earned the reputation as the launchpad of bossa nova’s biggest talents such as Elis Regina, Wilson Simonal, and Jorge Ben. They came to perform at the alley’s hottest nightclubs: Little Club, Bacará, and Bottle’s Bar. However, the alley’s allure faded by the time the ’70s rolled around, which brought revolution, heavy drug use, and the disco rage.

With help from the Hands agency, Heineken sponsored the renovation of these bars, bringing the music back to Beco das Garrafas for the first time in decades. Tracing this revitalization, Heineken’s documentary features interviews with people who grew up near the famous alley, bossa nova singers, and bar employees who were working in the heart of the area’s nightlife.

“The great challenge today for brands is how to capture the audience’s attention and get them involved,” Weiss explained. “So relevance, authenticity and original narratives are the most powerful ways of establishing emotional connection between brands and people today—involving and engaging them without interrupting their lives.”

Not only has the campaign breathed new life into the hurting Beco das Garrafas, which now hosts shows six days a week, but it also proved to be a strong marketing play for Heineken, which earned brand mentions in over 40 media publications and generated over $6.3 million in earned media.

“It is essential for the brand to identify the themes, the important human issues and social tensions that concern and affect the audience,” Weiss said. “By doing that, the brand can be the catalyst of a conversation that invites the audience to participate, entering into a larger discussion in the society with a wider resonance.”

Image by Heineken

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