MillerCoors CMO David Kroll departs amid Coors Light struggles

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MillerCoors CMO David Kroll is leaving the company.
MillerCoors CMO David Kroll is leaving the company.

MillerCoors has parted ways with Chief Marketing Officer David Kroll amid continued market share declines for the maker of Miller Lite and Coors Light.

"My immediate priority is to appoint a CMO who will advance our marketing efforts, working decisively and taking bold action to optimize our brand portfolio, with an urgent focus on turning around Coors Light's performance and capturing more growth in above premium," MillerCoors CEO Gavin Hattersley stated in an internal memo shared with Ad Age.

Kroll joined the brewer in 2012 as VP of innovation after stints at Procter & Gamble and Dyson. He was promoted to MillerCoors CMO in 2015, replacing Andy England. Kroll took a leave of absence in early 2017 to undergo heart surgery but returned later that year. His departure is not health related, the company confirmed.

MillerCoors like all big brewers has struggled in recent years amid competition from spirits brands and craft brewers. But of late it has underperformed its larger competitor, Anheuser-Busch InBev. In the four weeks ending June 16, MillerCoors volumes in the U.S. fell 1.6 percent while AB InBev grew 2 percent, as the total beer category grew 2 percent, according to Nielsen data cited by Beer Marketer's Insights.

One of MillerCoors' biggest problems is Coors Light, whose lead agency is 72andSunny. The brand's shipments fell 4.1 percent in 2017, according to Beer Marketer's Insights. The brew in March attempted to spur growth with marketing changes that included more product-focused ads carrying an upbeat tone and plenty of images of its Rocky Mountain birthplace. It's a shift from the more serious "Climb On" campaign, which portrayed people overcoming challenges. But the campaign has yet to spark a comeback: Coors Light's volumes were down 5.2 percent in the year-to-date period ending June 23, according to Nielsen.

The CMO change could put pressure on MDC Partners-owned 72andSunny, which won the Coors Light account in late 2015 in one of Kroll's first big agency moves. The brand had previously been with WPP's Cavalry. Miller Lite, which Kroll shifted from 180LA to DDB Chicago in July of 2017, has fared better. Volume grew 1.5 percent in the four weeks ending June 23, according to NIelsen.

The diverging fortunes of its two biggest brands point to a seemingly intractable problem at MillerCoors: It has not been able to grow Miller Lite and Coors Light at the same time. But MillerCoors appears to be sticking with its long-term strategy of investing in both brands, even in an era where growing big mainstream light lager brands is exceedingly difficult.

"We simply cannot get to long-term, profitable growth without significant improvement in Coors Light— while building on Miller Lite's momentum—and without a bigger piece of above premium," Hattersley stated in his memo. He credited Kroll for "improving Miller Lite's performance to gain share of total industry; reinvigorating Keystone Light; and building our above premium presence through brands and innovations like Sol, Henry's, Crispin Rosé and Arnold Palmer Spiked."

Kroll's last day is July 27. "Our plans are locked and loaded through fall, and I won't sacrifice finding the right person to satisfy an arbitrary timeline. However, I do plan to move with pace to find our next marketing leader," Hattersley stated.

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