7UP sales rise buoys bottlers at annual meet

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[maui, hawaii] Dr Pepper/Seven Up has held its first upbeat bottlers meeting in years, bubbling over reinvigorated sales of 7UP.

From good news on sales to a gala featuring Tina Turner look-alikes and showgirls, the conference was a far cry from five years ago, when the U.S.' No. 3 soft-drink marketer was the latest acquisition of Cadbury Schweppes, sales were languishing and bottlers were being admonished to boost results.

Dr Pepper/Seven Up executives told bottlers last week that sales of 7UP, the company's No. 2 brand, have registered their first significant increase since at least 1986.

For the first eight months of this year, 7UP volume sales rose 2.7%, said Mike McGrath, president-chief operating officer for Cadbury/7UP, the unit in charge of the lemon-lime soft drink. That increase comes amid declines for the lemon-lime segment and a flat market for carbonated soft drinks overall this year, according to Beverage Digest.

Ad spending is on the rise, too. The budget will climb 15% next year, and the 7UP marketing push will include an exclusive sponsorship of the Grammy Awards telecast. Measured media spending for the 7UP brands totaled $39.2 million in 1999, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

`IT FEELS GOOD'

"It feels good to be up on 7UP. We're not saying our work is done. Clearly, it is not. We have the pieces in place to sustain growth," said Jim Trebilcock, senior VP-marketing at Dr Pepper/Seven Up.

Dr Pepper/Seven Up executives credited the rebound largely to the 11-month "Make 7UP yours" ad campaign featuring hapless spokesman Orlando Jones. Mr. Jones, who's honoring the commercial actors strike (AA, Aug. 21), was on hand at the convention to walk bottlers through nine storyboards for new commercials from Y&R Advertising, New York.

The media buy will continue to concentrate on sports, comedy and late-night TV programming, targeting 12- to 24-year-olds.

Mr. McGrath said 7UP sales also have been helped by consumer promotions that included linkups with Puma and Pepperidge Farm, as well as improved availability in stores, better in-store displays and good placement in the cold-drink section.

Dr Pepper/Seven Up executives also announced a three-year agreement for 7UP to be the official soft-drink sponsor of the Grammy telecast in February.

NEW PACKAGING

Cherry 7UP and the diet versions of the cherry and main lemon-lime brands are being reformulated, and all four 7UP soft drinks are getting new packaging. The packaging will go nationwide by the end of October.

At least two new "Make 7UP yours" spots will promote the sleeker package, with one placing Mr. Jones in a nudist camp. Roger Easley, chairman-CEO of Seven-Up Bottling Co. in Santa Clara, Calif., said his colleagues were pleased with the new ad work. But he said some were concerned the ads could go too far, particularly the nudist spot, where a woman passing Mr. Jones gazes down and comments, "Nice package."

Executives warned the good times for 7UP sales could slow temporarily when Pepsi-Cola Co. launches Sierra Mist later this year, as the U.S.' No. 2 soft-drink company supports the new brand and Sprite marketer Coca-Cola Co. defends its turf.

Dr Pepper/Seven Up's top-selling Dr Pepper brand also is on an upswing, with sales rising 2.3% for the first eight months of 2000. Ad spending is set to rise 4% to 5% in 2001. Last year, Dr Pepper got $71.2 million in measured media support.

The 1,000 bottlers at the convention saw new Dr Pepper ad work shot during the strike using non-union actors. Mainstream ads from Y&R continue using the tag "Dr Pepper makes the world taste better."

One ad geared to the African-American market features boxer Leila Ali, daughter of Muhammad Ali. Shift Advertising, Dallas, created that commercial.

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