City of Balen (Belgium)

Client: City of Balen (Belgium)
Product: City of Balen
Title: Sobercoins
Media: Events
Country: Belgium
Date Of Campaign: July 2022

Background: Pre-drinking (getting drunk prior to going out) is pretty common these days. However, in Belgium the problem is huge: 80% of young Belgians do it. Mostly to avoid the high cost of drinking at venues. As a result, they drink massive amounts in a short amount of time, and 25% do it with heavy liquors. Research shows that pre-drinking leads to heavier drinking and an increased risk of addiction. In the city of Balen, just like in many other cities in Belgium, this pre-drinking led to many other problems (besides the risk of addiction): fightings, vandalism, medical interventions, ... . So, this small city in Belgium wanted to act and try something completely different to tackle the pre-drinking problem. Something beyond 'communication' and something that is much more based on 'positive rewarding' and 'behavioural incentives' than repression. Also important to notice that the Sobercoins initiative is not an 'anti-alcohol' campaign. It's there to tackle pre-drinking.

Idea: The Belgian City Council of Balen tried something unprecedented to fight pre-drinking: Sobercoins. An encouragement for young people to arrive at the party sober by rewarding them with... free drinks. How? Young people can get breathalyzed (free choice) at the entrance doors of the clubs. When negative, they are rewarded with a behavioural incentive: a Sobercoin, a token for 3 complimentary drinks by the venue. A behavioural incentive that might feel contradictory at first, but research data (source: Nathional anti-addiction Institute Belgium) has proven that if young people don’t pre-drink, eventually in total they end up drinking way less alcohol and it'll be much more spread over time. Important notice: PR was the only 'media' and 'viral power' available to spread this unique and successful initiative.

Results: The initiative was made public end of June 2022. Via PR in local press, young people got to know the initiative. After 1 day only it was headliner news on all National News outlets. One month later the Sobercoins initiative made the global News and News Outlets like BBC came to the City of Balen in Belgium to live-report about this unique experiment. Beyond the PR results (which was a key result to this campaign), the City of Balen also registered 3x less fightings, 8x less vandalism and 4x less medical interventions (source: local police data city of Balen) since the introduction of 'Sobercoins'. The Sobercoin scheme (fighting pre-drinking by handing out... free drinks) will now also be introduced in other cities in Belgium and will even be tried out at a student campus in Arkansas, USA. 

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