Crown Imports Names Former Coors Exec Top Marketer

Jim Sabia Will Be Charged With Turning Around Corona Brand

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Crown Imports, seeking to reverse two years of sales declines on its flagship Corona beer brand, has tapped a former Coors and Constellation Brands executive as its new top marketer.

Jim Sabia
Jim Sabia
Incoming Exec VP-Marketing Jim Sabia replaces Tom McNichols, who left late last year after a 20-year run at Crown and its predecessor company, Barton Brands.

Mr. Sabia spent 17 years at Coors Brewing Co., a period in which he helped launch Blue Moon and played a key role in turning around Coors Light. At Constellation, he led marketing on the wine behemoth's liquor portfolio, which included brands such as Effen and Svedka vodkas and Black Velvet Canadian Whiskey. But Constellation sold two-thirds of its spirits brands -- including Effen -- in a $334 million deal to reduce debt earlier this month.

Crown Imports is a joint venture between Constellation and Mexico-based Grupo Modelo, which brews Corona.

Turning Corona around
Now, however, Mr. Sabia will be charged with turning around Corona, which has seen sales fall for two straight years following 16 straight years of growth. He'll have to decide how much, if at all, to tweak the No. 1 import beer's beachfront ad strategy, which has been largely unchanged for the better part of two decades in the U.S.

Mr. Sabia's experience at Coors may prove instructive at Crown: He worked on the Coors Light brand under former CMO Ron Askew, who led the brand away from its long held "cold as the Rockies" positioning with disastrous results (remember the Coors twins?). But he also worked with current Coors marketing chief Andy England, who returned the brand to its original positioning, a move that has since paid off in sales gains.

Crown also markets Corona Light, Modelo Especial, Pacifico, Negra Modelo, St. Pauli Girl and Tsingtao.

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