Cold Play: Coors Pushes Positioning

Launches 'Glacier' Tap Handles and Temperature-Activated Labels

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CHICAGO ( -- This just in: Coors Light really, really wants you to know it's cold.
Coors' new 'glacier' tap mechanism delivers beer at 6 to 10 degrees colder than normal taps.
Coors' new 'glacier' tap mechanism delivers beer at 6 to 10 degrees colder than normal taps.

OK, that's not news at all -- the No. 3 light beer has said virtually nothing else about itself for years, with few generally disastrous exceptions, such as the much-maligned "Rock On" campaign. But it's a point the brand is hammering home with a few innovations it hopes will boost sales in both bars and store aisles.

On-counter glacier
The first of these is "Coors Light Super Cold Draft," an on-counter "glacier" that pours beer to bar patrons at sub-freezing temperatures. The modified tap handle forms a layer of ice as it delivers beer between 28.5 and 31.5 degrees farenheit, compared to the 36 to 40 degrees Coors says beers are typically poured at. Then there's the cold-activated bottle, a gimmick that makes part of the Coors Light bottle's label turn blue when the beer reaches optimum drinking temperature.

These follow past brainstorms such as insulated cooler box and stay-cold bottle labels that have helped Coors harp on its long-standing cold claim, originally linked to the cold-filtered technology used to make the beer (similar to the process used by Miller Genuine Draft and others) and its Rocky Mountain heritage.

'We own cold'
"We can own [cold] because of our heritage and our brewing process," said Sara Mirelez, brand director for the Coors Light and Coors brands.

The tap and bottle will be hyped in TV and print ads from DraftFCB, Chicago, which will tout Coors Light as the "World's Most Refreshing Beer." Some of the spots will laud Coors Light as the beer of choice for celebrities such as the world's strongest man, Magnus Ver Magnuson; fastest man, Michael Johnson; and fastest eater, hot-dog-downing champ Takeru Kobayashi.

Coors, a traditionally reluctant online spender, is also taking its cold campaign to the web. The brand's "Cold Train" will scoot across various web pages daily at 4:53 p.m., touting that as the start of a new, earlier happy hour. The campaign was executed by Avenue A/ Razorfish.

Tight race
The focus on cold helped boost Coors Light sales by low single digits last year, while its closest rival, Miller Brewing Co.'s Miller Lite, saw small declines. Both brands lost ground to No. 1 brand Bud Light, which grew faster. The rivalry between Coors Light and Miller Lite is particularly important because they are relatively close in market share (Miller Lite leads with 8.6% to Coors Light's 7.8%, according to Beer Marketers' Insights) and both are vying for the focus of many shared distributors.

Coors Light spent about $127 million in measured media during 2006, according to TNS Media Intelligence. That total should rise this year. During a recent conference call with Wall Street analysts, executives at parent Molson Coors Brewing Co. said marketing, general and administrative costs would likely rise in the mid-single digits. The executives also said the bulk of the increase would be in marketing.

Coors Banquet
Coors is also launching a national ad campaign behind its original, full-calorie Coors brand, known as "Coors Banquet" for its early days when founder Adolph Coors used to serve it at banquets for miners. The spots, narrated by actor Sam Elliott, tout the brand's history as a cult beer that used to be smuggled east of the Mississippi.

That could be a tough sell given the moribund sales trends of full-calorie domestic macrobrews (led by Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser, which in the 1880s was a cult beer in its own right), which have become so persistent that simply slowing sales declines is a cause for celebration.

Mr. Elliott's presence in the spots draws attention to the absence of Coors' usual spokesman, company namesake and former U.S. Senate candidate Pete Coors. Mr. Coors, who starred in Coors spots as recently as early 2006, hasn't appeared in any of the brewer's ads since pleading guilty to driving while impaired last summer.

Asked if Mr. Coors' absence is related to his legal woes, a spokeswoman said: "We're taking a different direction with Coors Light and Banquet right now."
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