Feb 182020

The fact that celebrities endorse or represent a particular brand is nothing new in the beer industry.  Immediately following World War II, many regional beers, using the new medium of television, utilized cartoon characters to represent their beers; while in the 50s and 60s, print ads hosted sport stars and Hollywood actors/actresses to endorse a particular brand.  During this era, the use of celebrities was most closely associated with the current national brands including Pabst, Schlitz, Falstaff, and Budweiser. 

Sports marketing came to the forefront after Philip Morris bought the Miller Brewing Company and Miller began a race with AB to see which establishment could purchase the rights to various sports and stadiums. Miller introduced Miller Lite and supported the brand by using retired, famous ex-jocks with their “taste great, less filling” highly successful campaign.  In subsequent years, Ed McMann of the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson became a longtime spokesperson for Budweiser. Other famous celebrities included Paul Newman who switched his endorsement from Coors to Budweiser and shortly thereafter put a Bud logo on his racing car. Coors selected Mark Harman to endorse their beer, followed by Pete Coors, and the brand has successfully used Sam Elliott’s voice-overs for years.

Domestic brewers have had varying degrees of success using celebrities; however, imports as a whole have not used screen idols to endorse their products with the exception of Heineken who has used cameo appearances with some celebs. In recent years Heineken tied into the James Bond franchise going so far as to use Daniel Craig in some of their ads. The brand also retained Neil Patrick Harris as a spokesperson for Heineken Light. One can argue as to the effectiveness of these ads, however, that particular campaign was short-lived.

Heineken recently announced the hiring of professional golfer Phil Mickelson as spokesperson for Amstel Light. This is somewhat baffling in that Amstel Light is almost a memory in beer. Heineken recently tried to pursue Michelob Ultra using Amstel Xlight, a low carb light beer that went absolutely nowhere. Perhaps by using Mickelson for a beer that has little to no distribution, Heineken is trying to reach Generation Xers, or the last of the retiring baby boomers. In some way this campaign resembles what Pabst did 10 years ago with Schlitz. Pabst targeted Florida, which witnessed the first wave of boomers retiring and reintroduced Schlitz, a beer that generation grew up on.  Pabst employed billboards and new distribution in the hopes of motivating the boomers to return to the beer. Unfortunately, the ploy did not work.

Heineken will be using Mickelson to advertise a beer that has no distribution, especially in the on premise accounts. This campaign appears to be a reach for Heineken and a waste of Mickelson’s appeal. Had Heineken used Phil to promote their Heineken Light, at least they would not be speaking to empty shelves. The question is: why is Heineken using a highly regarded golfer to prop up a basically non-existing brand? Mickelson has become somewhat of a social media sensation with his posts, but this relationship seems to miss the target. Remember, Ultra is the main beer sponsor of men’s professional golf.

A goal without a plan is just a dream.

 Posted by at 7:00 am
Feb 112020

When traveling either within the U.S. or outside the country, I typically look for which brands of beer are sold in the area, as I’m sure others in the beer industry do likewise. Call it a habit, but brands particular to an area characteristically tell a story of that region’s beer industry.

Several weeks ago, I visited the Dead Sea in Israel. While there I encountered the “Lowest Bar in the World,” (honestly, the name of the bar) which was located 420 meters below sea level. The Dead Sea is visited annually by tens of thousands of people from all over the world. This bar, the only one located at the Dead Sea, offered two styles of Israel’s Gold Star beer, in addition to Stella, Heineken, and Weihenstephaner. The bar also offered Corona, Tistango, Carlsberg, and Paulaner in bottles. Obviously, visitors to the Dead Sea were coming from all parts of the world, so this selection of global beers made sense…beers from all over the world for the people from all over the world. 

Such was typical of our trip to Israel: massive crowds of tourists lined up at every historical and religious site. At times, it felt like the Super Bowl on steroids. At each site we visited, and at the hotels where we stayed, the restaurants served multiple brands of beer, with the lead offerings provided by Gold Star’s two brands, followed by Heineken and Stella, all of which were on draft. 

A majority of the tourists were Americans; however, one could not find a single American beer! No Budweiser, no Coors, and no Miller, much less any other brand. The question is: why would such global companies, including ABInBev and MolsonCoors, not have beer in Israel considering the international tourism? The simple answer might be that these global breweries look at countries such as Israel as a second-tier market. When one reviews the global markets in the media, most articles deal directly with China. It seems many breweries have their eye on China and that country’s massive population. And if the focus is not on China, then it is on India, Africa, or South America. If a global brewery was intent on expanding or building their flagship brand, it would seem the international visitors to Israel would be a natural go-to place. At least the Europeans seem to see it that way.

Traveling around the world is one thing, but to be home is something special.

 Posted by at 7:00 am