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Corona Light Goes After Middle-Age Beer Drinkers With Taste Pitch

Brewer to Hike Media Investment on Brand 78%

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Last year Mexican import Corona Light tried to gain ground against its larger domestic light beer foes with ads featuring talking sheep that encouraged drinkers to "ditch the herd" and try something new.

But for 2014 the brand is ditching the sheep in favor of a new ad approach that puts more emphasis on the liquid inside the bottle. The campaign pitches the brand as the choice for people who are "ready for a light beer you can actually taste." The ads are part of a new strategy to target middle-aged drinkers rather than twentysomethings. The campaign is by Omnicom Group's Goodby Silverstein & Partners, which has held the account since late 2011.

One TV ad, called "Epiphany," makes a pretty blatant attempt to differentiate the brand from more youthful-targeted beers like Bud Light by featuring a man who is relieved to be in a bar where his shoes aren't sticking to the floor. And the "hot brunette" that catches his eye from across the room happens to be his wife.

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It's not as if Corona Light failed with its earlier ad attempts to target domestic lights. The brand grew dollar sales by 5.6% in the year ending Jan. 26 to $218 million, according to IRI, which excludes bars and restaurants. That compares with a 10.9% drop in sales of imported rival Heineken Light, which fell to $61 million in sales, according to IRI. But Corona Light -- which only began running separate campaigns from big brother Corona Extra in 2010 -- remains a fairly small player. The brew has a 4.9% share of all imported beer sales and is a whole lot smaller than Bud Light, which had $5.9 billion in sales in the period.

The goal of the Corona Light campaign is to "break through the clutter" of big-spending domestic brews by zeroing in on an older audience of drinkers ages 35 to 44, said Jim Sabia, chief marketing officer of the beer division at Constellation Brands, which owns Corona. "We were being outspent 60-to-1," he said, referencing brands such as Bud Light, Miller Lite and Coors Light. So this year "we are really going to target who is drinking us the most."

In doing so, the importer plans to spend more on the brand, which has long operated in the shadows of Corona Extra. Light's media investment will jump by 78%, Mr. Sabia said. In the first 11 months of last year, Crown spent $6.8 million in measured media on Light, compared with more than $65 million on Extra, according to the latest data available from Kantar Media.

The "taste" positioning seeks to highlight the somewhat hoppier flavor of Corona Light compared to its domestic light beer competition, Mr. Sabia said. He pointed to a common beer measurement known as International Bittering Units, or IBUs, saying Corona Light scores 18 on the scale, compared with about 10 for domestic light beers.

"We believe consumers palates are changing," Mr. Sabia said, pointing to the growth of craft beers, many of which are far hoppier than typical light beers, including Corona Light. "But they still like the benefits of light beer."

Constellation also plans to spend more on Corona Extra, which posted sales growth of 7.2% to $1.2 billion in the year ending Jan. 26, outpacing the total beer category growth of 3.5%, according to IRI. While the brand will stick with its "Find Your Beach" tagline, Constellation will put more media weight in the summer period, as it boosts total yearly spend on Extra by double digits, Mr. Sabia said. The brand, which has traditionally only been available in bottles and cans, is also testing Corona on draft in Cincinnati, Houston and Sacramento starting next week.

Here is one of the new ads, which are by Cramer-Krasselt:

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Constellation will also continue to put more marketing behind its fast-growing Modelo Especial brand. Sales surged by 25% to $584 million in the period ending Jan. 26, putting Modelo one spot behind Heineken and one spot ahead of Keystone Light, according to IRI. Modelo, which began airing general market ads about three years ago, will run TV ads in seven markets this year -- including Chicago, Dallas, Houston and San Francisco -- up from six last year.

The ads, by Goodby Silverstein & Partners, have a gritty, urban feel and were shot in San Francisco's Mission District and New York's Lower East Side.

The spots are meant to exemplify the types of neighborhoods "where the brand has been built from the ground up", as it migrates from a mostly Hispanic consumer base to a broader multicultural following, Mr. Sabia.

It is inevitable that Modelo will one day soon run a national TV campaign, he said.

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