Anheuser-Busch next year will launch its first female-targeted campaign for Michelob Light in several years, while boosting spending on the larger brand family by 20%. The beer marketer also will roll out a dark, specialty-type Michelob in the fall.
In 2001, overall Michelob spending could reach nearly $50 million, according to brewery officials. "We've hit the gas on Michelob and in particular Michelob Light," said Steve Bagwell, senior VP-premium brands. Much of the beefed-up budget will be directed at California, the brewer's biggest market, as well as at women and Latinos, he said.
Anheuser-Busch, which has no imports in its 40-plus brand portfolio, has focused on high-end products for almost a year as Americans continue to open their wallets for pricier brews.
Michelob Light also capitalizes on consumers' desire for low-cal beers, a big drawing card for women.
In addition to going after female drinkers with Michelob Light, Anheuser-Busch is targeting Hispanics, who tend to buy a lot of high-end products, with Michelob, Mr. Bagwell said.
The female-oriented magazine campaign will be Anheuser-Busch's first since the mid-1990s. The "Beer or Michelob Light" print ads will break in undetermined September books, with more ads expected, Mr. Bagwell said.
Leap Partnership, Chicago, will handle.
"More professional women in the workplace want to have that badge in their hands and the taste of Mich Light," he said.
"You don't see a lot of beer companies advertising to women."
In addition, the St. Louis brewer said it would increase the number of "Beer or Michelob Light" TV spots, which began in 1998 and initially included "Beer or Michelob" ads.
NEW SPOT REUSES BAG BOY
At least one of the new ads, also from Leap, will leverage off the bag boy who lovingly wraps a six-pack of Mich Light in bubble wrap after breaking a loaf of French bread in half and slamming other delicate groceries into a shopping bag.
Mich Light is the bright spot in the Michelob brand family. Light sold 2.8 million barrels last year, its fourth consecutive year of sales increases, after bottoming out at 2 million in 1992, according to Beer Marketer's Insights. That compares to 1.75 million barrels for Michelob last year, down 5% and well behind its 8 million barrel high in 1980.
Mich Light's rebound corresponds to Anheuser-Busch's increased ad spending on Light and its Michelob siblings.
Last year, the brewer spent nearly $34 million on advertising the high-end family, according to Competitive Media Reporting. The majority went toward Mich Light, the country's 13th top-selling beer. Considerably less was spent on Michelob, the No. 20 brew, according to data from CMR and Beer Marketer's Insights.
In autumn, a specialty dark Michelob will join the brand family, with a name Anheuser-Busch wouldn't disclose, along with a cardboard four-pack of 16-ounce cans for Michelob Amber Bock. Teardrop-shaped cans for Michelob and Michelob Light debut nationally Nov. 1, and Anheuser-Busch is testing plastic labels that look painted-on for both brands in Texas.
The increased focus on Michelob makes sense, according to distributors, which can make more per case on the high-end line than its less expensive sibling Budweiser.
"There's been a lot of fallout with micro [beers]. People who already are in that import and above-premium category are looking for familiar brands," said a Midwestern wholesaler. "For a few years, people were spending a lot of money on products that have no track record."