SHANGHAI (AdAgeChina.com) -- Harbin and Budweiser are the core brands of Anheuser-Busch InBev (InBev) in China, where both beers achieved double-digit growth in sales volume during the past summer, but it's Sedrin that the company sees as the next major brand.
InBev is putting its marketing clout behind Sedrin, one of China's leading regional brands. The company has launched iCool, a sub-brand of Sedrin that is designed to appeal to younger, hipper beer drinkers.
Sedrin may not be a household name outside of China, or even outside Fujian and Jiangxi provinces, but InBev has kept an eye on the brand since 2006, when it acquired the Fujian Sedrin brewery for $752 million.
Introduced in 1986, Sedrin was already the No. 1 beer brand in Fujian, one of China's wealthiest regions and home to important cities like Fuzhou and Xiamen. The acquisition made InBev the No. 2 brewer in China overnight and doubled InBev's sales volume in the world's largest beer market.
"The Sedrin brand will be one of InBev's top five selling brands globally by volume with significant potential for growth and expansion," said Carlos Brito, InBev CEO at the time of the acquisition.
By the end of last year, Sedrin was the fifth-largest brand in China and ranked third in production and sales from a single factory. InBev hopes iCool will bring Sedrin closer to Mr. Brito's goal by attracting twenty-something Chinese, who see beer as less fashionable than imported spirits.
Campaign launch mostly digital
"It's positioned as a premium product in Sedrin, with a focus on young and contemporary adults, [an] affluent segment in the region," said an InBev spokeswoman in Shanghai. Even the packaging aims at the target market of 22-to-39-year-old Chinese men. "iCool's most important feature is its curvy bottle that matches a sexy lady's figure."
Marketing for iCool is built around a web site, www.iCool-fun.cn, which InBev hopes will establish iCool as a brand that makes consumers' lives more interesting. The launch campaign is also linked to Tencent's popular portal through a microsite, icool.qq.com.
InBev is supporting the launch with a bottle cap promotion. Pincodes printed under the caps can be redeemed for prizes, including branded merchandise, free hours at local karaoke clubs and other prizes.
The new brand is also endorsed by Ruby Lin Xin Yu, a Taiwanese TV actress well known in mainland China for roles in series like "Boy & Girl" and "Flying Daggers." As the new brand's spokeswoman, Ms. Lin promotes its tagline "Flexibility brings fun." Advertising, including a TV spot featuring Ms. Lin, was handled by JWT, Shanghai. (Watch the spot here.)
Foreign brewers investing heavily in China
Sedrin is just one of many local brands that has been snatched up by foreign brewers. Before imerging with InBev, for example, Anheuser-Busch purchased Harbin Brewery, the top beer in northeastern China. The Japanese food group Suntory has a majority stake in Donghai, a leading brand in Shanghai.
SABMiller and its Chinese partner China Resources Enterprises own Snow, the world's second-biggest beer brand by volume, and part of Tsingtao Brewery Co. along with Asahi Breweries. InBev also has a stake in other Chinese companies like Zhujiang Brewery in the southern city of Guangzhou.
Despite these major investments, it's tough for foreign beer makers to turn a profit in China, where retail prices for local brands remain very low and it's difficult to establish regional brands on a national scale.
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