Tecate Stays True to its Mexican Roots in U.S. Marketing Efforts

Brewer Speaks 'Authentic' Language of Immigrants Rather Than Targeting Broader Hispanic Market

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Unlike many marketers, Tecate's Carlos Boughton isn't a fan of targeting a broad Hispanic audience.

Tecate, which focuses all its U.S. marketing efforts and ad dollars on Hispanics, is the beer for Mexican immigrants. Segmenting that group further, the company launched a beer for the next generation, Tecate Light.

'CON CARACTER': Spots reference hardships of Mexican immigrants.
'CON CARACTER': Spots reference hardships of Mexican immigrants.
"We believe Tecate should only speak in Spanish," said Mr. Boughton, brand director, Tecate Equity. "In authentic Mexican language, not a pan-Hispanic approach. You often water down your message by going very broad."

Despite the recession, he said Tecate's sales grew 6% last year in a flat market, and were up 13.3% by volume in Hispanic markets during the first quarter of 2009. Tecate, distributed in the U.S. by Heineken USA, has close to a 20% share of imports in Hispanic markets, and is the No. 1 imported beer among Hispanics, he said.

Tecate ads position the brand as the beer "con caracter." New ads humorously reference the struggles and hardships of resilient Mexican immigrants, whether they are tough guys working construction, sending money home or leaping up to offer a woman their bus seats. Radio spots warn men who are "chicken, whiny, insecure, cowardly and not that manly" or players of badminton or ping-pong to avoid drinking Tecate.

Hitting up boxing fans
Tecate also made a strategic decision that soccer is too broad and has too many clubs and countries for any brand to own, but that it could put its stamp on another sport popular with Mexicans: boxing. When a Spanish-language network canceled a weekly boxing show last year and Tecate lost a boxing platform, the beer marketer asked networks and producers for ideas, reviewed proposals, and went with ESPN. Now a Tecate-sponsored Friday-night fight show airs on Spanish-language ESPN Deportes, hosted by a boxing champ who appears in Tecate commercials. The fights also air on English-language ESPN2, sometimes with Tecate ads in Spanish.

"If we're going to approach the general market in any way, we're going to do it with boxing," Mr. Boughton said.

In 2008, Tecate spent $15.8 million on Hispanic media, up from $10 million in 2007, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Of that total, $2.7 million was spent on Tecate Light and $318,000 on sponsorship.

Tecate's ad agency, Adrenalina, was created in part by the client, who hired the shop in 2007 when it consisted of several guys working out of a Starbucks.

"They didn't exist as an agency, but [we liked] their strategic analysis and understanding of consumers, and level of creativity," Mr. Boughton said. "So we decided to take a risk."

Next generation
New ads are breaking to lure Tecate drinkers' more acculturated kids to Tecate Light. Born in the U.S., they are more similar to general-market drinkers than to their Mexican parents.

"In Mexico, the light-beer category is small but in the U.S., it's half the industry," Mr. Boughton said. "An immigrant's average age is about 25, so his frame of reference is the Mexican industry, with two beer giants and about 12 brands."

Three spots feature two parents in Mexico horrified that their son in the U.S. is drinking generic light beer. Papa implores him to at least drink Tecate Light, which has taste, and worries about what's next -- melon margaritas? -- as Mama waters her plants with the generic light beer. A coming English-language spot will celebrate the achievements of Mexican-Americans with celebrities like boxer Oscar de la Hoya who help shape American culture today.

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