Corona Light gets $10 mil push in east

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Gambrinus Co. today begins its largest push behind Corona Light, a $10 million effort to take on segment heavyweights Bud, Coors and Miller.

The initiative from Gambrinus, which markets the brand in the eastern half of the country, is the beginning of its full-bore effort to make a contender out of a brew not yet among the country's top 25 beer brands. The push involves print and radio as well as two TV spots this year and two more later this year. This is the first time since 1999 that the brand has had a dedicated TV advertising effort.

Meanwhile, Gambrinus' western counterpart, Constellation Brands' Barton Beers, is including Corona Light with its Corona Extra outdoor, print and radio. Barton said it believes dual branding gives the brand more heft. Cramer-Krasselt, Chicago, is Barton's ad agency.

Corona Light's spending is meager compared to the $90-plus million lavished each on Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Lite. That said, Corona Extra needed a sliver of the budgets of Anheuser-Busch Cos., Philip Morris Cos.' Miller Brewing Co., or Coors Brewing Co. to snag a 3% share of all beers, becoming the country's leading import and its seventh best-selling beer.

"We're going after the big fish," said Don Mann, group director at Gambrinus. "Corona Light can have the same appeal [for] domestic light beer drinkers that Corona has had versus regular beer drinkers."

Corona Light represents 7% of Gambrinus' Corona volume but 20% of this year's marketing spending. Its campaign pokes fun at domestic lights and their aficionados as monster-truck-watching losers. One spot by Richards Group, a Dallas independent, features an anonymous light-beer bottle in front of a TV as lame sports scroll by. The bottle acts like a channel changer then morphs into a Corona Light bottle, as a beach scene floods the tube. TV breaks in 14 major markets with print in publications including Emap's FHM and Time4Media's Golf. The target is 21- to 34-year-old men who down half this country's beer. Corona Light's four-year-old "Miles away from other light beers" tag remains.

At about 420,000 barrels, Corona Light is the No. 2 imported light after Heineken USA's Amstel Light, though it pales next to Bud Light's 34.7 million barrels. But the brand is at the confluence of two of brewing's most significant growth sectors-light and foreign brews. "Imported light beers are definitely a sweet spot," said Benj Steinman, publisher and editor of Beer Marketer's Insights.

Corona Light volume last year grew 20% with just $29,700 in measured media, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. The Big 3 cumulatively spent $316.8 million for less than 9% growth.

Reduced calorie brews represent 44% of U.S. beer volume. Five of the top 10 beers are low calorie, and Bud Light last year eclipsed Budweiser as the king of beers.

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