LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- As Americans appear to be collectively drinking less beer in 2010, MillerCoors is hoping to make TV viewers thirsty again with an aggressive new branded-entertainment strategy that will put its brand in the hands of everyone from George Lopez to Angie Harmon to oil drillers.
Starting tonight, MillerCoors and Time Warner's Turner Entertainment will kick off a summer-long partnership that will feature storyline integrations and sponsorships from the brewer's brands across Turner's TNT, TBS and TruTV networks. The first integration will air during tonight's "Lopez Tonight," where the late-night comedian is expected to do a live commercial for Miller Lite. The brand will continue to be a featured sponsor of the show throughout the summer, including the 99th episode on June 23.
Elsewhere on TBS, Miller's MGD 64 will have a recurring role in key bar scenes on the fourth season of sitcom "My Boys," a show that happens to be set in one of Miller's biggest markets, Chicago. TNT will debut the cop series "Rizzoli & Isles," starring Angie Harmon, on July 12 with an integrated role for MGD 64 as well as custom tune-in spots and interstitials for the brand throughout the series. And TruTV's "Black Gold" will renew its first-season relationship with Miller Lite with a season-long sponsorship and recurring product placement. The deals were brokered by media agency Initiative and the brewer's in-house team at MillerCoors Media.
Stevie Benjamin, media director for MillerCoors, said the integration deals were struck during last year's upfront -- when TV networks typically sell between 70% and 80% of their ad inventory -- to secure prime placement during this year's summer season, as the period from Memorial Day to Labor Day is the most critical sales window for beer marketers. MillerCoors already has lead sponsorships on Turner Sports' coverage of the NBA and Nascar, so bringing that corporate relationship to Turner's younger-skewing scripted and reality programming made a lot of sense.
"Our branding message is 'taste greatness,' so we're always looking for opportunities to exploit that greatness," Ms. Benjamin said. "We are using a scalpel, carving out the right shows with the right brands and precision targeting."
In a statement, Linda Yaccarino, Turner's exec VP-chief operating officer of ad sales, marketing and acquisitions, pointed to Turner's ongoing contextual ad strategy as the basis for Miller's multiplatform deal.
"This smart collaboration is another example of placing the right spots in the right places at the right times," she said.
As cable companies continue to aggregate sales and marketing resources for brands, such multi-network sponsorship deals are becoming more commonplace. NBC Universal has introduced integrated marketing platforms such as Green Is Universal, Women at NBCU and, most recently, Healthy at NBCU to create cross-platform ads for clients including Pepsi, Kodak, Walmart, General Mills and Maybelline. Discovery Communications' recent premiere of the BBC multipart documentary "Life" included a seven-network simulcast across Discovery properties such as TLC, Animal Planet and Science Channel, bringing sponsors Target , Sprint, Volkswagen, Geico and Discover along for the ride.
Ms. Benjamin said the company will use a variety of proprietary and "econometric" measurement tools to track the effectiveness of these integrations, as well as more basic metrics such as length of product airtime and proximity to talent.
"The tough thing with targeting 25-year-old guys is there's a lot of competition for their attention in the summer. We love the fact that Turner has revved up on programming that attracts their attention so much," she said.
MillerCoors, the No. 2 U.S. brewer, has struggled this year amid an overall decline in the U.S. beer business.
Through May 16, sales of Coors Light and Miller Lite in food, drug and convenience stores were down 0.5% and 7.5%, respectively. Those two brands account for about half of the company's revenue. (Some smaller brands, such as Blue Moon, Keystone Light and MGD 64 have grown, but not enough to offset the weakness of the flagship light lagers' sales.) Miller Lite spent a total of $134 million on measured media in 2009, according to Kantar Media.
~ ~ ~
Contributing: Jeremy Mullman