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Think tobacco and the brands that generally come to mind first are Philip Morris USA's Marlboro and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.'s Camel.

But there's a third brand that's been quietly rising.

Although eclipsed by Marlboro in sales and Camel in growth, Lorillard's Newport is the No.*2 cigarette in the U.S. and the second-fastest growing in the industry.

That feat is credited to Group Brand Director Victor Lindsley, 38.

Industry watchers say Newport's growth is a function of a consistent marketing message and ad support. Its long-running "Alive With Pleasure" campaign, handled by Compton Partners, New York, hasn't wavered in its message promising fun.

"In effect, it's like the Virginia Slims woman or [Joe] Camel," says Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Roy Burry. "The theme is always depicted in a certain way."

Spending, moreover, has remained high in a time of waffling ad budgets for cigarette marketers. According to Competitive Media Reporting, Lorillard supported Newport with almost $25 million in measured media last year, about the same as expenditures by PM on Virginia Slims or RJR on Camel.

Even amid new competitors such as RJR's Camel Menthol, Newport is still hot.

According to the Maxwell Consumer Report, Newport's share for the first quarter of 1997 reached 6.3%, up from 5.8% for the same time period a year earlier. That made the cigarette the No. 2 brand after Marlboro's 33.3%.

Its growth rate of 5.6% also was second only to Camel's 7.5%, according to Maxwell, during the first quarter.

Even more promising, Mr. Burry says Newport has a younger smoker profile than Kool, an elusive but important growth factor in tobacco marketing.

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