The Heineken Bondverse

Curator's Note

Product placement and James Bond go together like… well, like James Bond and an Aston Martin. Alongside perhaps the most successful British cultural export since the books of the Brontë sisters, there have been ubiquitous marketing tie-ins — commercials for watches, suits, cars, toys, et cetera ad infinitum. One of the slightly younger advertising connections with the Bond franchise is that built by Heineken beer, which goes back to 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies. I argue here that these Heineken commercials form a contained Bond universe (‘Bondverse’) of their own. In this alternate reality, James Bond is self-aware, self-referential, semi-progressive, and occasionally interchangeable with his alter ego, the actor Daniel Craig. Notable also is that this marketing universe depicts cross-overs with ‘everyday’ lives, suggesting much more than any of the films that Bond has a lasting impact on those around him. I observe this parallel storyworld via the marketing tie-ins for Skyfall (2012), Spectre (2015), and No Time to Die (2021).

The Heineken Bondverse, and the multiplicity of other Bondverses established by other brands, form a network, an ecosystem of references that are alive with a fun and vibrant energy — or, if you prefer, corniness. Rather than transmedia as originally (and perhaps problematically) conceived (see O'Meara and Bevan 2018, Kwon and Byun 2018, and Scott 2010), I here offer that these miniature marketing storyspheres can be understood through an ecological and ephemeral approach. This approach requires a paratextual, ephemeral, objectified attitude to media, an aliveness to its tropological richness and vitality, an investment in the objects of its genre, its tropes, its history (warts and all). Put another way, what if we took the Bond commercials as canon?

In the Skyfall piece, a bystander is mistaken for Bond and chased through a train, a perfect linear corridor for action. Along the way, there are small episodes where the man deliberately or inadvertently affects those around him, and he eventually ends up in a raving party carriage, where he briefly meets Bond himself before the hero must away to save the day. This is where the bystander is effectively propositioned by actor Bérénice Marlohe; the man, like us, is invited to ‘Crack the Case’. The Spectre tie-in is radically different from the dark film with which it’s associated. Bond is once again being chased by toughs, but this time he (for want of a much better phrase) ‘picks up’ a young woman as a water-skier behind the boat he’s used to get away. Hijinks and hilarity ensue as the poor woman is dragged across and between various scenes, including a wedding where apparently Nick Nack (from 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun) is a guest. The tie-in for No Time To Die does not just play with the cultural currency of the Bond films, but also with critical commentary; in this piece, the actor Daniel Craig is mistakenly identified as James Bond, and struggles to cope with a series of Bond-esque encounters in the course of a day in his life.

Each of these promotional clips features a chase. A well-worn action cinematic trope, of course, but it works well as a kinetic device in these short pieces. All three rely on tropes — cultural, cinematic, and those specific to the Bond franchise. In short, they represent “a liquid and elusive textuality” (Lughi 2016: 49) that reconfigures time, space, and cultural materials. These advertisements create a secondary storyworld that one can see as partly connected to the source material, but only where needed to build a cultural reference. Further research might more deeply consider worldbuilding and storytelling in singular or multiple pieces of advertising media, and the role these media play in wider culture.


Kwon, Young-Sung and Byun, Daniel H. (2018), "An exploration of the limitations of transmedia storytelling: Focusing on the entertainment and education sectors", Journal of Media and Communication Studies, 10:4, pp. 25-33. 

Lughi, Giulio (2016), "Paratext between time and space in digital media", in Pesce, Sara and Noto Paolo (eds.), The Politics of Ephemeral Digital Media, New York: Routledge, pp. 49-62.

O’Meara, Radha and Bevan, Alex (2018), "Transmedia Theory’s Author Discourse and Its Limitations", M/C Journal, 21:1,

Scott, Suzanne (2010), "The trouble with transmediation: Fandom's negotiation of transmedia storytelling systems", Spectator: The University of Southern California Journal of Film and Television, 30:1, pp. 30-34.


First off, Daniel, kudos for supplying your own edit of the Heinekenverse commercials!  

Your inclination to see this series of paratexts as their own interconnected universe and Heineken's own efforts to make them appear so, for me, reflects the increased prominence of interconnected narrative universes within contemporary media.  Of course, the Craig-era Bond films have indulged in this sort of serialized continuity far more than previous eras, with Spectre going as far as retconning all of the preceding Craig villains to be members of the titular criminal organization.  What stood out to me in these commercials are the inclusions of characters or references to non-Craig-led Bond films.  In addition to the Oddjob top hat throw you mention, we see Hervé Villechaize's Nick Nack (water skier commercial) and Joseph Wiseman's Dr. No (train commercial).  Each of these cheekily imply that these villains (who originally menaced previous versions of Bond) exist within the Craig continuity - or, to your point, the Heinekenverse canon.  All of which would qualify this commercial universe as part of a Bond multiverse of paratexts.  Similar but separate alternate Craig-Bond realities might include the 007 Legends video game which inserts Craig into films where he did not portray Bond.

... not to mention the relaunch of GoldenEye on Nintendo Wii, which saw Craig playing Bond as opposed to his direct predecessor Brosnan.

Part of what I was -- rather clunkily -- trying to argue is that the marketing tie-ins afford creatives the opportunity to open the Bond universe up to a web of connections to the wider Bond canon and beyond. The retcon in Spectre, while awkward, was still limited by narrative cause and effect. The Heineken ads have no such requirement.

Yes, good call on the GoldenEye re-release!

I do hope that wider web of connections that you speak of manages to extend past the paratexts into the mainline franchise, as I feel like the rebooted continuity of the Craig era has become a little too strict for a franchise that has long been rather loose with its canon.

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