Cannes Lions

Carling Black Label Over Time


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Carling Black Label struggled to have its own identity. Originally positioned as an American beer brewed locally, it eventually found its home as the beer for hard working South African men, becoming a local icon of masculinity and a core beer brand in the Ab InBev stable.

But CBL has seen Massive losses in volume due to increased competition and declining lack of relevance (Between 2014 and 2018, the beer had lost 14% of its volume in sales, signalling a slow but steady decline) with COVID: GBV, alcohol bans and the cancelling of large events adding to the pressue.

The brief was to reposition the brand with a more progressive view of masculinity, taking the massive risk of losing their core audience while also potentially not attracting a new one, by reframing the value and role of masculine strength and continue to innovate for sustained success.


We wanted CBL drinkers to feel like they can be a champion in their own lives so we positioned. CBL as the brand that make ordinary South African men feel that "There's gold inside".

This BIG BRAND IDEA and narrative was build across three platforms over a 4 year period:


Repositioning the brand by reminding men that it is what your do with your strength that makes you strong

- Bold, brave, strong (2018 - 2019)

- There’s Gold Inside (2020-2021)

- Linking the beer’s intrinsic qualities to qualities of a progressive man


#NoExcuse (2017-2021): Social good platform aimed at reducing gender-based violence encouraging men to use their strength for good and educating men on positive masculinity


Carling Black Label Cup (2019 + 2021): Encouraging a healthy expressions of strength


Traditional masculinity espouses strength, in particular physical strength as well as multiple sexual partners, emotional stoicism, anti-femininity, homophobia, violence and the man as provider.

The elephant in the room was the well-established link between traditional masculine codes (including beer drinking) and violence against women. No alcohol brand had openly addressed the intersecting issues of masculinity and alcohol related violence.

From research we found that the notion of ‘inner strength’ is well understood in SA culture. Values long associated with traditional masculinity were tracking downwards, those associated with progressive masculinity were tracking upwards. The positive values were already closely tied to the DNA of the CBL brand.

We needed to associate the traditional trait of strength with the progressive aspects of masculinity, building a bridge for older consumers that would link them to the present, while demonstrating to

the younger audience that CBL had evolved.


The repositioning had a dramatic effect on the brand’s trajectory making it one of the most powerful alcohol brands on the continent, re-securing its first place position among the beer brands in South Africa, beating even the premium brands; and growing its relevance with the younger consumer without alienating the older traditional market.

From volume decline in 2017, the brand moved into years of growth.

BRAND IMPACT (2018 - 2023)

+84% Increase in Brand Equity

BUSINESS IMPACT (2018 - 2023)

83,1% Volume Growth

42,7% Share of Beer

9 times larger than our main competitor

SOCIAL IMPACT (2018 - 2023)

50% decrease in women who accepted spousal abuse

15% increase in men standing up against GBV

Similar Campaigns

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The 63 Second Final


The 63 Second Final

2024, AB INBEV

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