Turning Billboards Into Beer Coolers: Behind Coors Light's New Environmental Push

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Coors Light 'Every One Can' poster
Coors Light 'Every One Can' poster Credit: MillerCoors

Here's one way to make sure your advertising doesn't go to waste: As part of a new sustainability marketing push, Coors Light is converting its billboards into beer coolers and its kegs into barbeque grills. The effort will kick into gear in a few months as part of a summer promotional campaign called "Every One Can," which will also include a large-scale push to get drinkers to recycle beer cans.

The MillerCoors brand will begin touting its environmental credentials in TV ads next week that begin a new chapter of its ongoing "Climb On" campaign by 72andSunny. The Coors brand has long pursued sustainability goals at the corporate level. But "we just haven't talked about it," said Elina Vives, senior marketing director for Coors brands.

By making it a key marketing message, the brand is hoping to win over consumers that, according to consumer research, favor environmentally friendly brands. Sixty-six percent of consumers say they are willing to pay more for sustainable brands, up from 55% in 2014 and 50% in 2013, according to the latest Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability report published in late 2015. Packaged goods giant Unilever recently did its own study and found that there is an untapped opportunity of around $1 trillion in sales globally for "sustainable goods."

Coors Light marketers tested their sustainability ad and promotional campaign concepts with consumers before moving forward. "They saw it as positive new news for the brand," Ms. Vives said. "They saw it as a fresh approach, especially in the American light lager segment."

Coors Light several months ago began storing the vinyl material that is used to make its advertising billboards, rather than sending it to landfills. The material is being used to make cooler bags for beer that the brewer plans to give away to consumers in states where that is legal. TerraCycle -- which specializes in recycling hard-to-recycle materials -- is handling the job. The bags carry a tag that says "I used to be a billboard." The brewer is also turning damaged beer kegs into barbeque grills that will be used for in-store marketing displays.

The agency behind the promotional campaign is Leo Burnett's shopper marketing agency, which is known as Arc. Ms.Vives also gave credit to the brewers PR agency, Olson.

Coors Light LED sign
Coors Light LED sign Credit: MillerCoors

In addition, Coors Light is using bar tap handles made of from recycled aluminum and beer coasters made from 90% recycled material, Ms. Vives said. Recently, the brand decided to replace neon bar signs with LED versions, which she said are "much more sustainable."

"Everything we do in our marketing has a lens of sustainability and where we can, we are going to make changes," she said.

Coors Light plans to tout the "Every One Can" program in TV ads this summer. The spots that begin airing next week tout historical achievements, such as the brand's claim that it "pioneered the recyclable can." The ads also plug recent moves to embrace solar power at one of MillerCoors' breweries as well as efforts to make breweries landfill free.

Coors began experimenting with aluminum packaging in the 1950s and by the end of the decade began making aluminum cans, according to the brand. In January of 2015, MillerCoors announced the completion of a 3.2 megawatt capacity solar panel installation at its brewery in Irwindale, Calif. In February of last year, the brewer reported that all of its major breweries had reached landfill free status, meaning that no glass, paperboard, plastics or metal waste are sent to landfills. Remaining non-reusable or recyclable brewery waste is sent to a waste-to-energy facility, according to the brewer.

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