LABATT BOLSTERING BREWS WITH 40% AD BUDGET HIKE: IMPORT MARKETER TO SPEND $20 MIL IN MEDIA FOR '98

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Labatt USA is boosting ad spending by 40% as it embarks on a 5-year plan to be the largest U.S. import/specialty beer marketer.

That will be a challenge for the marketer, which has set its sights on Heineken USA, the market leader with 26% of the 167 million case import beer market, according to industry newsletter Impact. Labatt USA has 12%, putting it in fourth place.

Labatt USA plans to spend more than $20 million in media in 1998. Its priorities include the first national network TV buy for Rolling Rock; new creative and increased spending for its Mexican brews; expanded TV support for Canadian import Labatt Blue; and a new campaign for newly acquired Dutch brew Carlsberg.

The owners of Labatt USA, Canadian brewer Labatt Brewing Co. and Mexican brewer Femsa, are allowing it to retain more profits over the next several years so it can spend more on marketing.

"Our shareholders are both very excited about their prospects in the U.S.," said Paul Cooke, who last month was appointed president of the importer.

"I'd like to see more advertising," said an executive at one southeastern wholesaler that handles Labatt brands. "Their level of advertising has been behind [that of] most of the other distributors."

Labatt USA sold 2.8 million barrels in 1997, according to the company.

JUMP-START ROLLING ROCK

Labatt USA is using TV to jump-start Rolling Rock, which has had flat sales at 1 million barrels since 1993, according to Impact. In the biggest-ever TV buy for the brand, Rolling Rock will receive its first support on national network sports and late-night programming.

Labatt also is continuing to advertise the brew on national cable and wants to get on top-rated syndicated shows.

Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York, handles Rolling Rock.

Labatt USA also plans to boost ads for Mexican brews Dos Equis, Tecate and Sol.

To support Dos Equis, Labatt next month will roll out an outdoor and print ad campaign from Ammirati that pits the brew against European imports. The tag: "Viva la revolucion!"

Tecate will be supported by a Mexican-American focused outdoor, print, radio and TV campaign from Cartel Creativo, San Antonio, Texas.

Labatt USA introduced Sol in San Diego last year and will soon bring it to additional markets in California and Texas. The importer will back the expansion with the brand's first TV work from Amster Yard, New York.

SPOT TV UPPED FOR LABATT BLUE

Labatt Blue, the marketer's best-selling imported brand, will be supported with new TV work from Ammirati and an increased spot TV budget, Mr. Cooke said. Previously, the importer ran Canadian brand ads in U.S. markets.

The marketer also is rolling out an estimated $2 million campaign for Carlsberg, for which it recently picked up distribution rights. Bozell, New York, handles.

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