And the man behind Radegast's tightly-focused marketing strategy-including sponsorships of sports events that brought tennis legends Bjorn Borg and Ivan Lendl to the former Czechoslovakia-is Michael Fuciman.
"In 1992, we were the only Czech beer to sponsor the Czech team at the Olympic Games in Albertville and Barcelona," says Mr. Fuciman, Radegast's commercial director. The sports connection boosted Radegast, the name of the Slavic god of sun, fire and hospitality, from a scant 6% of name recognition among Czechs two years ago to an amazing 70% in 1993.
The success story begins when Mr. Fuciman, along with Managing Director Jan Sikora and Marketing Director Vladimir Jurina realized two years after the fall of communism in 1989 that the regional brewery needed to overhaul its image as a state-run monolith.
The first move in that direction was to create a marketing department. "During socialism there wasn't any marketing department," explains Mr. Fuciman.
Radegast's climb is all the more surprising since it is competing in a market with 70 brewing companies and the highest per capita consumption of beer in the world. Radegast brewed 1.35 million hectoliters in 1993, up from 1.31 million hectoliters a year earlier.
But the success doesn't end there. Radegast expects to brew 2 million hectoliters this year and sales have increased correspondingly with production. This success has made Radegast one of the hottest properties on the new Prague Stock Exchange, despite the fact that profits decreased from more than $5.1 million in 1992 to just over $3.4 million last year as Radegast increased its marketing budget. Mr. Fuciman estimates that Radegast spent approximately 5% of its annual sales of close to $51 million in 1993 on advertising.
Much of the marketing money went to sports sponsorships, particularly tennis, Mr. Fuciman's idea, to raise the Czech company's profile beyond its borders. The strategy, to associate the brand with the young, healthy, imagery of sports, was implemented by Pro Market in Ostrava and RDI in Prague.
For the past several years, Radgast has participated in the international exhibitions on Czech exports in countries including Germany, France, Japan, Portugal and United Arab Emirates. Representative offices in the U.S. and Japan are part of this effort. As a result, Radegast plans to export 20,000 hectoliters of its brew to importers on the U.S. East and West Coasts this year.
"We want to export 12.5% of our production this year," Mr. Fuciman says. Markets to the east, including Russia, Hungary, Ukraine and even Kazhakhistan, also are part of the plan.