MillerCoors' Coors Banquet: A Marketing 50 Case Study

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Photo: Tony Pettinato
A good yarn deserves retelling. Coors Banquet beer burst into American popular culture during the 1970s as a regional brew with a great story -- brewed from Rocky Mountain spring water since 1874, when it was served at miner banquets. Now that story has been dusted off with new marketing. And sales are responding.

The original story line spurred a cult following for the Colorado beer. The brand, unavailable east of the Mississippi back then, was routinely smuggled back east on airplanes and long road trips, a trend immortalized in the 1977 film "Smokey and the Bandit." But wider availability and the onset of light beers cost Coors Banquet its mystique and appeal, and by the mid-1980s it was seeing steep declines in sales volume that continued unabated for more than two decades.

Coors Banquet is on the growth track again, a turnaround story fueled by an ad campaign from DraftFCB, Chicago, featuring the gravelly voice of Sam Elliott and focusing on Coors Banquet's Rocky Mountain heritage and quality. The message was reinforced by a return to the yellow cans travelers used to bring home from western trips.

"Coors is an icon of Western masculinity," says Andy England, chief marketing officer at MillerCoors. "We needed to remind people of that."

The results speak for themselves: Sales of Coors Banquet were up 7.6% this year through Oct. 5, according to Information Resources Inc., a second-straight year of growth. Meanwhile, the brand's full-calorie premium rivals remain ensconced in their own long spirals: Budweiser and Miller Genuine Draft were down 5.1% and 3.1%, respectively, during the same period.
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