COORS' AD INFUSION HELPS BOLSTER ITS FLAGSHIP BREW: SPENDING TO TOP $20 MIL AGAIN AS ORIGINAL'S SLIDE EASES UP

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Coors Brewing Co.'s $20 million-plus marketing investment in its flagship brand finally seems poised to pay off.

As a result of the relaunch of the brand-begun last year with new advertising, packaging, promotions and even switching the brand name from Original Coors-the brewer expects Coors Original could post its first annual sales increase since the 1970s.

To ensure that, Coors this year will spend more, heavying up on network TV advertising, and will run more co-promotions between Coors Original and Coors Light.

"At this point, we're looking to get this brand going in the positive direction," said David S. Taylor, corporate communications manager.

If Coors succeeds in reviving the brand, it would be a significant coup in an industry where fading brands rarely return to glory.

Coors put $20.6 million in ad support behind the brand in 1996 and is on target to exceed that in '97, according to Competitive Media Reporting. During the first three months of this year, Coors spent $3.1 million on the brand, up 21.2% from the year-earlier period.

MAINTAINING MOMENTUM

"The challenge in the second year is to maintain momentum and demonstrate to distributors that there is opportunity within the premium segment," Mr. Taylor said.

Mr. Taylor said the momentum has been maintained, even though shipments dipped a few undisclosed percentage points in the second quarter.

Coors Original volume had been sinking since the 1970s, and suffered double-digit drops in the '90s. Trying to save the beer, Coors relaunched the brand and jacked up ad spending 147.1% in 1996, according to CMR.

The result: Shipments of Coors Original fell by only 2.4% to 2 million barrels in '96, compared with a 13.2% plunge a year earlier, according to Beer Marketer's Insights. Those results came in a industry that managed to boost shipments by 0.8% last year, its first increase since 1990, according to Impact.

`HARD TO DO'

PaineWebber analyst Manny Goldman said he's impressed the brewer was able to stanch the bleeding.

"They did something that's hard to do, bringing back a brand," he said.

Coors plans to throw more weight behind network TV this year. Since 1994, when the brewer tentatively started rebuilding the brand, most focus has gone to spot TV in strong markets.

The latest Coors Original advertising from Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco, broke last month; it trumpets the brand winning a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival. The tagline: "Taste the one that won for taste."

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