HEINEKEN DIMS RED STAR FOR MAINSTREAM APPEAL: SPOTLIGHT TURNS TO PRODUCT IN BEER MARKETER'S '98 CAMPAIGN

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Heineken USA's red star may be fading.

After nearly two years of trying to elevate its red-star logo to the level of the Nike swoosh, importer Heineken USA is expected to focus more on product in ads, wholesalers said.

The importer is sticking with the star, but it will play a more complementary role.

"Now they'll show the full-bottle shot instead of just the red star," said one California wholesaler.

Heineken USA executives have been meeting with wholesalers across the country to discuss 1998 marketing plans.

"They're featuring the product more in the ads," another wholesaler said.

Besides tweaking the look of its ads, Heineken USA is expected to make the brand's image more mainstream.

SPENDING TO TOP $30 MIL

Budgets were undisclosed, but Heineken USA will boost spending from the $30 million it had slated for this year, wholesalers said.

Heineken USA officials were not available for comment.

Faced with a competitive import market, the company is trying to portray Heineken as a beer that can be enjoyed while hanging out with friends, not just at holidays and big events.

"Heineken looks at themselves as an upscale beer that's consumed on special occasions," said a Pennsylvania wholesaler. "They want to be a beer that's for all occasions."

Some things won't change. Ads from Wells BDDP, New York, will continue to have a quirky edge and the focus will be on young adults, wholesalers said.

The audience will be broadened, with an increased focus on African-American, Hispanic and Asian consumers, another California wholesaler said.

"They are going to be aggressively going after the Hispanic, black and Asian markets, but the Hispanic market is where they see the largest opportunity," he said.

HISPANIC, HOLIDAY PUSHES

Heineken USA is expected to target the Hispanic market with Spanish-language radio ads.

Also, it's expected to spend $6 million on marketing during the holiday season, which includes an ad celebrating its tie-in to the James Bond movie "Tomorrow Never Dies." The ad features different men named James Bond and Pierce Brosnan,

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