Leaving A-B aside for now, Coors, Miller eye each other

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The nation's No. 2 and 3 brewers are targeting each other rather than focus their attacks on category leader Anheuser-Busch Co.

Coors Brewing Co. plans to ramp up spending in more than 20 local markets, including some where Miller Brewing Co. is strong-such as its Milwaukee hometown and Texas-according to distributors.

Under new owner SABMiller, Miller is stepping up the battle. Miller President John Bowlin reminded wholesalers at a recent meeting that even though many of them distribute both Coors and Miller, the companies are not allies. He suggested that while Miller once had been content to be a solid No. 2 in the U.S. beer market with a 10 percentage point lead over Coors, lethargy is no longer acceptable.

But it's not the market leader most closely in its sights: An SABMiller spokesman, acknowledging that the company can't outspend Anheuser-Busch, said it more easily can gain share from Coors. Miller spent $242.8 million on measured media last year versus Anheuser-Busch's $464.3 million, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

Coors doesn't appear to be singling out Miller, since it's also increasing attention in markets such as the New York City area where Miller has no edge. The increased outlay will go beyond advertising to events and other programs although it's uncertain if some of the increased presence would be diverted from national buys. Coors spent $202.1 million in measured media last year.

racy ads

Anheuser-Busch remains a target. Coors' Chief Marketing Officer Ron Askew has said he wants to make all light beers, including Bud Light, look old. To that end, he's launched racy ads and expanded Coors' creative roster to include Havas' Arnold Worldwide, Boston, and Interpublic Group of Cos.' Deutsch, Los Angeles, from simply Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide, Chicago.

Stepped up marketing is expected from Miller, handled primarily by WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, New York and J. Walter Thompson, Chicago and New York. Under prior owner Philip Morris Cos., Miller comprised less than 5% of the tobacco giant's business. It now constitutes about half SABMiller's business.

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