Great Commercials: Heineken’s “When You Drive, Never Drink” with Sir Jackie Stewart

Responsibility may be any advertiser’s foremost concern.  So when you make an excellent adult beverage as Freddy Heineken does, you would want to promote the proper use of said beverage.  And if you just signed an agreement with Formula One as the Series’ “Global beer partner,” you might really want to put your best image forward.

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Sir Jackie Stewart is the talent of course, along with the help of old clips with some computer-generated image assistance.  Set to the song “Heroes” by the late great David Bowie, and sung by Nicole Adkins of Postmodern Jukebox, we see the legendary driver, with a little help by computer graphics, politely decline an offer of the sponsor’s product throughout his career.  The final shot shows Sir Jackie politely refusing a Heineken just as a valet presents his white Jaguar at an upscale social event.

There is a double message here, of course.  The first is the suggestion that one should not drink and drive; the other is that Sir Jackie Stewart, at 79 years young, is still very much alive and well.

Here is also a 91-second version of the ad:

I have to admit that the first time I saw the 30-second spot, I thought the idea of showing the ale but denying its use was pure genius… I’ve never seen this approach in a commercial before.  Just imagine a Girl Scout Cookie ad where the buyer refuses to purchase a box of Thin Mints “because they’ll make me want more.”

And on a more personal note, the ad brought back a fond memory where I spent a few moments with the racing car legend about 25 years ago.

We were doing that car show, and there was a Bridgestone Tire event here in Nashville.  At the time, Bridgestone was the only manufacturer of Z-Rated production car tires, and Mr. Stewart was there representing Ford, along with Reeves Callaway and his twin-turbo Corvette.


Both gentlemen were courteous, polite, cordial, and helpful.  After a few moments of small talk with your humbled reporter, they even posed just so that yours truly could get this most excellent image of them together, discussing who knows what, and keeping the pose until I gave them both a huge smile.  They had surely made my day.

I hope the commercials run for a while.  The message is timeless, and hopefully will make some people think before they imbibe and drive.

And Jackie, please keep on driving!

Chuck Lynch

Image Credits:  The first image of Sir Jackie Stewart is from the commercial.  I took the final image in 1991 at Opryland Hotel.

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