Bilingual Cartons and a Cuban-American Rapper Figure in Beer Makers’ Plans to Tap Growing Market
By DAVID KESMODEL
The world’s brewing giants, struggling to eke out growth in the sluggish U.S. market, are stepping up their courtship of the country’s Hispanics.
This summer, MillerCoors is rolling out bilingual packaging in the U.S., adding Spanish to the cartons that hold bottles or cans of its Coors Light and Miller Lite brands. It is also sponsoring a Mexican soccer league.
Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, which says its Bud Light and Budweiser are the top-selling brews among Hispanics in the U.S., is increasing its spending on ads in Spanish-language media. And it has struck a deal for Bud Light to sponsor Cuban-American rapper Pitbull’s fall concert tour.
Meanwhile, companies like Heineken NV and Crown Imports LLC, which import popular Mexican lagers, are churning out new ads they hope will extend their brands’ appeal to a broader Hispanic market.
The scramble comes as the U.S. beer industry appears to be headed for a third-straight year of declining sales volume, in part because high unemployment has damped the spending power of its core customers-men ages 21 to 34.
But the rivalry also reflects the long-term importance of Hispanic consumers. By 2030, Hispanics will account for 23% of the nation’s legal-drinking-age population, up from 16% in 2010, according to U.S. Census Bureau forecasts. According to surveys by Crown Imports-whose brands include Corona Extra, the top-selling imported beer in the U.S.-Hispanics also tend to consume more beer on occasions when they drink than do non-Hispanics.
The main challenge brewers will face in wooing Hispanics is creating ads that feel authentic to them, says Juan Tornoe, a partner with Cultural Strategies Inc., an Austin, Texas, firm that specializes in multicultural marketing. The quality of beer ads aimed at Hispanics has varied widely over the years, he says.
In 2004, the Mexican import Tecate touched off a controversy with a billboard that showed a bottle of the brew with the tagline, “Finally, a Cold Latina.” Tecate, then imported by a Belgian-Mexican venture, pulled the ad after some Hispanic consumers complained it branded all Latin women as hot-blooded sex symbols. “The most important thing to do is not stereotype and to take into consideration the culture,” says Mr. Tornoe.
Crown Imports, whose brands include the fast-growing No. 3 import Modelo Especial, is crafting distinct campaigns for each of its Mexican brands, seeking to minimize any overlap in consumers’ minds, says Bill Hackett, president of Crown, which is co-owned by Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo SAB and U.S. wine-and-spirits maker Constellation Brands Inc.
Spanish- and English-language ads for Corona, for instance, highlight luxurious beach settings to underscore the brand’s premium status. By contrast, a new TV spot in Spanish for Modelo Especial features a middle-class young man named Mario hanging out with friends at a Los Angeles nightclub. At first glance, the voice-over says, Modelo Especial may seem like any other beer, just as Mario seems like just a normal guy. But Mario, it turns out, is an accomplished dancer, which he proves-to the amazement of his friends-by leading a waitress in the quebradita, a flamboyant, physically demanding Mexican-American dance.
Crown also is tailoring its products to suit special beer-drinking occasions such as family gatherings. The company recently introduced Corona Familiar-a 32-ounce bottled version of the brew-in a handful of states, including Arizona and California.
U.S.-based MillerCoors started a big push last year to promote its brews to Mexican soccer fans, signing a deal to make Coors Light the exclusive beer sponsor of Mexico’s Primera Division on U.S. television and other media. The second-largest U.S. brewer by sales is trying to swipe market share from the top seller, the American arm of Anheuser-Busch InBev. MillerCoors says its share among Hispanics is smaller than its overall market share of about 30%.
“It’s really important that we start making significant inroads,” said Al Patel, vice president of multicultural marketing at the Chicago company, a joint venture of London’s SABMiller PLC and U.S.-Canadian brewer Molson Coors Brewing Co.
Anheuser-Busch InBev, meanwhile, is hoping to expand its overall lead in the U.S., where it accounts for about 48% of all beer sales. This year the company plans its largest outlay ever on advertising in Hispanic media, said Dave Peacock, president of the company’s U.S. unit, in an interview. He declined to specify the amount.
The company spent about $60 million on ads in Hispanic media last year, up from $46 million in 2009, according to market-research firm Kantar Media.
Dutch brewer Heineken, the current importer of Tecate, is refocusing ads for the lower-priced Mexican brand, whose U.S. sales have declined in recent years. The brand traditionally has targeted first-generation Mexican-American men with blue-collar jobs, but it is taking broader aim in its new TV ads. The spots incorporate humor and celebrate interests that are popular across Latin cultures. One ad celebrates the caracter (character) of a man who vigorously salsa dances with several women at a party.
“We wanted to start tapping into the more acculturated Hispanic,” because much of the growth for Tecate will come from second- and third-generation Latinos in coming years, says Felix Palau, vice president for the Tecate brand at Heineken USA.Heineken also is promoting its flagship brand to Latinos. Starting this week it is sponsoring a three-week series of live concerts, art exhibits and film screenings in New York by Latino performers and artists, such as Puerto Rican rapper Tego Calderón.
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