Corona will push its new Refresca drink nationally

The Mexican import keeps adding varieties

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Corona—which tiptoed into the flavored malt beverage market last year with Corona Refresca—is about to dive in head-first. After testing the so-called "premium spiked refresher" in a handful of cities, Refresca will go national staring in May. The push will be backed with national ads. The campaign, by WPP's Cavalry, plugs the fruity drink as "the taste of the tropics." Flavors include passionfruit lime, guava lime and coconut lime.

The investment is part of an emerging strategy by Corona owner Constellation Brands to wring more growth from its flagship beer brand, Corona Extra, with new varieties. Refresca's launch comes after the 2018 national debut of Corona Premier, a lower-calorie version of Extra.

Premier, whose ads are also handled by Cavalry, targets health-conscious drinkers, following in the footsteps of Anheuser-Busch InBev's hot selling low-cal Michelob Ultra brand. Refresca, meantime, is aimed at people who don't like beer, says John Alvarado, senior VP-brand marketing for Constellation Brands' beer division.

The expansion, however, comes with a risk that the new products will steal drinkers from the flagship Corona Extra brand, which for years has been among the hottest-selling brews in the U.S. But Extra cooled off last year with sales falling slightly. And the brew was surpassed in size by Modelo Especial as the nation's largest imported beer.

But Constellation Brands execs are not worried. For one, the company owns fast-growing Modelo. And the overall Corona family—including the new varieties—finished 2018 up 8 percent in sales, which is actually better than 2017's uptick of 4 percent, Alvarado says.

"We have built the Corona franchise through the lens of Corona Extra largely, and a little bit of Corona Light, and we have found great success in that regard," he says. But the marketer's research revealed that the Corona portfolio had room to grow with varieties meant to broaden its appeal, he adds.

Constellation—whose beer brands also include Pacifico—plans to boost its total media spending by 8 percent this year compared with 2018. Below, a look at how it will spend some of that money on new ads.

Corona Extra

While other big beer brands continually tinker with their campaigns, Extra has stuck with its "Find Your Beach" ads for years. This year the Mexican import will continue its "Corona gets its lime" theme that it started in 2017. Ads are by Cramer-Krasselt. The newest twist is that the theme will also be used in Hispanic advertising by The Community. Below, one of the English-language spots from C-K.

Corona Premier

The brew will get a 12 percent boost in media spend in its second year of national advertising to roughly $40 million. Ads by Cavalry plug "lower carbs, lower calories, higher expectations."

Modelo Especial

The fast-growing beer built its reputation among Hispanic dinkers and only started general market advertising in 2015 with its first English-language spots under the "Fighting Spirit" campaign. Ads have typically featured Mexican immigrants. But this year Modelo will include one ad spotlighting an Irish immigrant bar owner named Christopher Mullins. Ogilvy handles the ads.

Pacifico

The brew, which has long been associated with the California surfing community, continues its "Live Life Anchors up" campaign by Cramer-Krasselt.

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