MILLER DEVOTES MORE FOCUS TO IMPORT BEER PORTFOLIO: FOSTER'S ADS AIR ON NETWORK TV, WHILE MOLSON TURNS TO HOCKEY

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Miller Brewing Co. is devoting some marketing muscle to its imports this year, starting with the first network TV campaign for Foster's Lager and a 30% spending boost.

Foster's ads, from Angotti, Thomas, Hedge, New York, break this week on network sports, late night and prime-time shows, as well as on cable networks ESPN and ESPN2. Spending is estimated at $1 million to $3 million.

SPOT MARKETS SO FAR

Foster's has been running TV ads in spot markets, including Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, San Diego and San Francisco.

"As the brand develops across all geographic regions, it just makes sense to move to a national plan," said Kari McGrath, marketing communications manager at Miller.

Miller spent $3.4 million on the brand for the first nine months of 1996, according to Competitive Media Reporting. About 70% of that in spot and cable TV.

The increase in spending is buoyed by solid sales performance from the brand. According to Information Resources Inc., Foster's supermarket sales last year totaled $19.9 million, up 10.5% over '95. Miller said sales for January were up 29% over the prior year.

The boost in marketing support addresses some wholesaler concerns that Miller's solidly performing import stable, with such brands as Foster's and Molson, was getting lost in the shuffle as the company tries to revive sales of its core Miller Genuine Draft and Lite brands.

ATTENTION ON MOLSON

Likewise, the company is notching up attention to Molson, its other import brand, with an integrated marketing campaign and an increased prize purse supporting the beer's "Shoot for the Gold" hockey promotion.

The seasonal promotion, which culminates with 30 consumers traveling to Montreal's Molson Centre to try to hit a slap shot into an empty goal, will include on-premise sampling, TV, print and radio, as well as an instant-win game. Miller also has boosted the promotion's prize this year from $10,000 to $1 million.

Foster's creative continues the "How to speak Australian" theme. TV spots end with a fist slamming down a can of Foster's and the line, "Australian for beer." In one spot, a man and woman are seen arm wrestling in a bar. When the woman wins, the referee says, "That settles it, mate. Her mum moves in." Superimposed

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