Coors changes tack to spur Light's sales

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Coors Brewing Co. is hoping cold will make its flagship light beer brand hot again.

The brewer is changing advertising for Coors Light as the beer heads for its second straight down year, with new 15-second spots touting Coors Light as "the coldest-tasting beer in the world." The spots employ imagery of refrigerated delivery trucks and Coors Light's cold-filtration brewing process, and note that most other domestic beers are heat-pasteurized.

With the new work, Coors is de-emphasizing the raucous "Rock On" effort heavy on crunching rock and cleavage.

The 2-year-old campaign tested well with young adults but didn't move product, leading the brewer to call for its agencies to pitch new ideas on Coors Light earlier this year (AA, June 14). The new effort was created by its agency of record, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Foote Cone & Belding, Chicago.

A Coors spokeswoman wouldn't comment on specific future advertising plans, but said the cold positioning will be an important component, including in lifestyle ads.

The effort encroaches on the positioning of rival Miller Brewing Co., which uses a cold filtration process for Miller Genuine Draft and has played that up in recent work, including "President of Beer" spots from independent Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.

Coors Light's weakness is bad news for Coors Brewing, since the light beer represents 75% of its sales. Beer distributors sold less Coors Light to retailers and bars during the first 36 weeks of the year than during the same period in 2003, according to executives familiar with the numbers, leaving the brand on track to post its second straight down year.

During the 36 week period, Coors Light "removals"-sales by distributors to retailers-fell 1.8% in "priority" markets that represent about a third of the Coors Light volume, the executives said. Removals fell 2.2% nationwide. A Coors spokeswoman wouldn't comment on the 36-week numbers or whether Coors Light sales will decline this year.

"It looks like they'll have their second down year in a row, barring a miraculous fourth-quarter recovery," said Benj Steinman, editor and publisher of industry newsletter Beer Marketer's Insights. He noted that Coors Light sales have suffered in key markets including Dallas-Fort Worth and Pennsylvania.

Coors was on a tear in the mid-to-late 1990s, but sales started flattening in 2001. Last year shipments from the brewer to wholesalers dropped 2% to 16.6 million barrels as the overall industry slipped 0.3%, according to Beer Marketers Insights.

turned tables

Coors Light grew at the expense of Miller Lite, but now the tables have turned. Lite, brewed by SABMiller's Miller Brewing Co., has mounted a yearlong comeback and has regained sales from Coors Light. Much of that has been attributed to the "Good Call" umbrella campaign.

During the first six months of the year, Coors spent $63 million on Coors Light, down 7% from the year-earlier period, according to figures from TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. Miller spent $64 million on Miller Lite, down 3%, while Anheuser-Busch Cos. boosted spending on Bud Light 17% to $81 million. During 2003, Coors spent $126 million on Coors Light, just behind the $130 million A-B spent on Bud Light, and Miller threw $119 million behind Miller Light.

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