MGD Highlights Brewing Process --- With Help From Elvis Costello

Brand Features Songwriter, Other Musicians in Traveling Concert Series

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CHICAGO -- Few beer drinkers view Miller Genuine Draft as a craft beer, but a new collaboration with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame -- the Cleveland museum's first nationwide project with a major marketer -- is designed to foster that impression.
Photo: Bobby Buchholz
Miller's concert series kicked off with a performance by Elvis Costello in Las Vegas at the brewer's distributor convention.

MGD's "The Craft" is a series of small, private concerts in which songwriting stars are interviewed on stage about making their songs before they play them. The concept, described by Miller as "'Inside the Actors Studio' meets 'Unplugged,'" dovetails with MGD's current marketing focus on being cold filtered four times.

"[The brewing process] is similar to the passion and integrity a musician puts into his art form," said MGD Senior Brand Manager Terry Haley. "The idea was to get underneath the songs, with a great deal of reverence for the process."

Twelve performances in seven markets

The concert series kicked off with a performance by Elvis Costello in Las Vegas on April 17, at Miller's distributor convention. In all, 12 performances are planned in seven markets -- including Chicago, Las Vegas, Denver, Seattle and Minneapolis -- considered strong in musical heritage and in Miller sales.

Miller will leverage the performances by airing pieces of them online and on local radio stations, and also through on-air contests in which tickets will be awarded. Media-buying agency Starcom and events shop GMR are involved on behalf of Miller.

"The Craft" also returns music to its long-held central role in MGD's brand strategy. Past MGD music promotions included the "Blind Date" mystery-concert series, in which fans won tickets to see unknown big acts in tiny venues, and myriad tour and venue sponsorships.

Different from past efforts

The concept for "The Craft," however, is a bit different than past efforts. At the Las Vegas performance, the rock hall's VP-education, Warren Zanes, explained the museum had hosted interview performances of this sort for years, and that Miller's interest allowed it to finally take the unusual shows on the road.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gets 100% of the gate from the shows, although many of the tickets will be given away via promotions. Miller already was a sponsor of the museum before this deal.

Operating from a talk-show-style stage in an intimate theater at the Palms Casino Resort, Mr. Costello fielded a wide range of questions from Mr. Zanes, a former member of rock band the Del Fuegos and a musical obsessive, about the roots of the classic 1977 ballad "Alison," and the storytelling of the obscure 1986 composition "American Without Tears," as well as many other topics during the career-spanning session.

Armed with a large collection of acoustic and electric guitars, Mr. Costello played nearly a dozen songs in whole, and frequently broke into snippets of others as he opined on his career and song craft. After Mr. Zanes left the stage, Mr. Costello closed out the night with a pair of up-tempo rockers -- "Pump It Up" and "(What's So Funny About) Peace Love and Understanding" -- that required no explanation.

Rocker prefers gin

The focus on process, of course, is exactly what MGD is hoping to impart on the lucky few who get to attend these shows. But -- despite tons of MGD signage and the brew's signature black and gold color scheme draping the theater -- the show contained at least one off-message moment, when Mr. Costello admitted, noting some embarrassment, that he preferred gin to beer because the latter made him feel like he'd explode before he felt buzzed.

"The people in the audience had a great time drinking MGD," noted Mr. Haley.
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