Castle says it isn’t taking Ashwin Willemse’s side with its new label-free beer. But it is worried about the race debate in SA.

Business Insider SA
  • Castle Lager says it is not siding with Ashwin Willemse – or with his SuperSport co-presenters – after it announced a label-free beer campaign on Twitter.
  • Its brand director says the social media conversation in response to the SuperSport incident was concerning. 
  • Castle has been planning bottles without labels for some time. Those will debut on June 9.

While Castle Lager is not taking sides in the conflict between Ashwin Willemse and his SuperSport co-presenters, the brand is concerned about the social media conversation in SA, a senior executive said on Tuesday.

On Monday night, Castle Lager announced that it will be selling packs of label-free beer as part of a campaign against labelling and stereotyping in South Africa.

It tweeted that “in light of recent events” (a reference to Ashwin Willemse’s decision to walk off a SuperSport set because he felt patronised by Naas Botha and Nick Mallett) it would “lose our label in solidarity with all those who are unfairly and callously labeled on a daily basis. This small act is a pledge that Castle Lager will work towards eradicating the labels that divide us. #SmashTheLabel #AshwinWillemse.”

But despite the tweet’s reference to the SuperSport incident, the brand has for some time planned to go label-free to highlight issues of stereotyping, Vaughan Croeser, brand director of Castle Lager, told Business Insider South Africa.

See also: After Ashwin Willemse, Castle beer to be sold without labels, copying a Coke campaign in the Middle East

The unlabelled beer will go on sale during the test series between SA and England, which starts on June 9 at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.

Only a small number of beers will be sold label-free.

Castle is not taking sides in the SuperSport incident, Croeser added. “We don’t know the all the facts. But the conversation on social media that followed was concerning.”

The hasthtag #ashwinwillemse was used to become part of the conversation, as “we want to help South Africans see beyond labels and stereotypes.”

“Over the last months and years, we have noticed a lot of negativity, driven by misconceptions and stereoptyping,” said Croeser.

Castle commissioned extensive research into South African culture, which found that the one thing that can promote social cohesion and unity, is the breaking down of stereotypes.

The label-free initiative follows on from its latest television commercial – which features albinism, gay relationships, and traditional healing – which was launched two weeks ago.

The ad attempts to upend stereotypes through the uniting force of sport. “We are encouraging South Africans to see beyond the labels,” said Croeser.

The campaign “won’t solve all the world’s problems”, but it is an attempt to break through the barriers that stereotyping creates, Croeser said. The brand’s purpose is to unite people and to make friends among South Africans, he added.

By early afternoon on Tuesday, Castle's initial tweet had received more than 700 likes, while the majority of the 200 comments were negative about the new initiative.

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