MillerCoors Steps Up Sports, Events as Anheuser-Busch Scales Back

At RAB Conference: Local Radio Supports New Strategy

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ORLANDO, Fla. ( -- With arch rival Anheuser-Busch cutting spending on everything from radio to sports naming rights, MillerCoors is looking to gain some share at its competitor's expense. The first stop: radio.

MillerCoors recently sponsored a U2 Day for CBS Radio's XRT radio station in Chicago to promote the release of U2's new album, 'No Line on the Horizon.'
MillerCoors recently sponsored a U2 Day for CBS Radio's XRT radio station in Chicago to promote the release of U2's new album, 'No Line on the Horizon.'
In a panel at this week's Radio Advertising Bureau Conference in Orlando, Fla., Dockery Clark, MillerCoors' exec VP-sports and event marketing, said the beer marketer is looking to naming-rights deals and other event-based marketing opportunities to boost its share, and looking to radio as a key activation point. She cited Coors Light's sponsorships as the official beer of the NFL and Nascar as recent examples but indicated that the newly merged company is looking to move beyond sports for future event-marketing deals.

"Now we have the chance to turn other categories upside down," she said. "When you look at [naming rights] and ask, 'Who is the best sponsor?' If it was a car company, they probably can't afford it anymore; the same with a bank company. Now there's a chance where we can step in and continue to do those things because we are still active. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us as the new MillerCoors."

When it comes to radio's role in MillerCoors' event-marketing strategy, Kim Luegers, emerging-media director for MillerCoors agency DraftFCB, said, "It's all about selling product and what channel does that best."

Ms. Luegers said the most valuable radio partners have been the ones who can help the company leverage retail and on-site event partners to help activate their local media buys. "We just need someone to listen to what [our] business problems are, and find out if your property has a solution that can help fix that problem," she said. "I take meetings every day with vendors, and the single most important thing I try to educate them about is: What's the problem my brand is trying to solve? At the end of the day, if you have something to help us accomplish that more, we're going to use you."

Although MillerCoors is looking to increase its investment in its event strategy, the frequency is being drastically retooled. "Instead of doing eight one-hour promotions, we're doing four two-hour promotions," said Jack Ferris, an event manager for MillerCoors in the Tampa, Fla., market. "It's not just about radio being there; it's about having some sort of consumer hook. Instead of giving away a pair of tickets to a game or a concert, we're giving away a six-pack of tickets. We have to make things a little bigger. A free ticket isn't enough to get someone out to a retailer."

That stakes-raising strategy paid off two weeks ago, when MillerCoors sponsored a U2 Day for Emmis' XRT radio station in Chicago to promote the release of U2's new album, "No Line on the Horizon." For the month leading up to the event, MillerCoors and Emmis ran a co-sponsored mobile campaign where listeners could send text messages to win a chance to score tickets to an exclusive U2-hosted event. Ms. Luegers said the promotion was the perfect opportunity to establish a database of avid MillerCoors drinkers in the Chicago market and re-market to those consumers in the future.

Plus, the U2 contest delivered the ultimate success metric for both advertiser and media partner: "Fans got the feeling of, 'Wow, I'm in a secret underground society where the average person walking down the street doesn't know about, but I'm here because I'm an avid listener," she said.

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