James Bond’s New Drink: Heineken

For the past 60 years, the James Bond franchise has enlisted six different actors to play our favorite British spy. While the actors have come and gone, there are a few emblems that have always defined the James Bond franchise: the 007 codename, the “Bond, James Bond” greeting and the gun barrel sequence. But arguably the most iconic James Bond trademark is the preparation of his vodka martini — “shaken, not stirred.”  However, that icon will be traded for a Heineken beer for at least one scene in the upcoming fall 2012 movie, “Skyfall.”

Heineken’s partnership with the James Bond franchise is not surprising with product placement becoming more popular in Hollywood, but their partnership is extremely unique. Generally, product placement in television or movies has no impact on the characters or the plot. But since James Bond’s vodka martini is one of his trademarks, the swap for a Heineken pint alters 007 ever so slightly. Heineken is purposefully changing Bond’s signature drink in order to capitalize on the favorable characteristics of the beloved MI6 agent.

Larry Woodard, director of AdWeek, comments, “The brand is actually making a statement because everyone knows that James Bond has got the best gadgets [and] best car, and [now they’ll ask], ‘What does it mean if he’s now drinking Heineken?’ It means Heineken is the best beer, theoretically.” Heineken has generally been considered one of the more upscale, expensive beer brands and the Bond partnership will allow the brand to capitalize on 007’s sophistication, sexiness and popularity to increase sales.

However, the partnership does not seem to be making the fans as happy as Heineken hoped. Fans take offense to the swap and argue that having Bond’s signature drink become a beer will drastically affect 007’s character by changing him from a suave agent to a casual everyday man. Most people believe that James Bond is classy and debonair with refined tastes, but that perception is no longer completely accurate. While Bond is still far from the common everyday man, the sophistication in the franchise has been waning ever since Daniel Craig assumed the Bond role. Craig has presented Hollywood with a more rugged version of Bond with his grittier action sequences and more casual attire. Daniel Craig’s Bond is not nearly as formal as the ones played by Sean Connery or Roger Moore.

The current Bond is frequently seen sporting T-shirts and even when he does don the perfectly tailored tuxedo, the classic tux generally ends up tattered or ruined because the movies have become increasingly more action-packed. The suave Connery and Moore Bonds have become a thing of the past due to the advancements in technology and the audience’s desire to see things explode. Hence, the Heineken partnership seems appropriate for the undoubtedly grittier James Bond of the present.

Furthermore, most people overshoot the presence of his signature vodka martini in the films. The memorable “shaken, not stirred” drink preparation was introduced in “Dr. No” and is the line everyone associates with 007’s drink of choice. However, contrary to popular belief, he does not just drink vodka martinis. Bond indulges in various alcoholic beverages such as champagne, the Old-Fashioned and the Americano, thus disproving the idea that Bond only drinks vodka martinis. Actually, the presence of beer in Bond’s hand is not new. In “Quantum of Solace,” Bond has a pint in the cantina with Felix and no one was outraged at his drink choice, thereby demonstrating the drink itself does not demean the franchise.

Despite the use of beer in previous bond movies, fans are upset at the Heineken partnership. But the fans who complain about the partnership are not as acutely aware of the Bond character as they think. They are only outraged due to the publicity of the Heineken announcement and their misperceived perception of the Bond character. But the fans’ anger is not unprecedented. The backlash caused by the Heineken partnership is reminiscent of the one that ensued when 007’s Aston Martin was swapped for a BMW in “Goldeneye.” It is just a matter of time before fans get used to the new drink as they did the car, but in the meantime both Heineken and the James Bond franchise are getting exactly what they want from the partnership: publicity.

Stephanie Cheng is a first-year chemistry major and can be reached at sccheng1@uci.edu.