Beer advertising. Those two words are enough to send shivers down
most creatives' spines, for if there's one thing they thirst for, it's a
beer account. As far back as 1974 and CDP's "Refreshes the parts"
campaign for Heineken, through to WCRS's "Dambusters" epic for Carling
in 1989, the category has been known for producing innovative and
The stakes, however, have never been higher, as lager advertising is big
business. According to Mintel, beer accounts for about 30 per cent of
all consumer spend on alcohol, with lager's volume share of the beer
market now reaching 60 per cent. Within this sector, premium beers are
busily stealing market share from other types of lager.
Unsurprisingly, this has sparked huge competition between lager brands,
all of which need to identify their positioning in the market. Scottish
Courage's decision last week to put its Kronenbourg 1664 brand out to
pitch reflected the importance of forging a bond between consumer and
John Botia, the brands director of lagers at Scottish Courage, says that
the incumbent Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R had failed to carve out a
distinctive position for the brand in the market or draw attention to
its unique heritage.
"We've got to be realistic," Botia admits. "People know Kronenbourg
exists and, in stature terms, we know they appreciate a brand with a
heritage. But we haven't cemented the point that Kronenbourg is France's
Despite strong sales growth over the past four years, the brewer clearly
sees making this point as the key task in an increasingly competitive
market. The dramatic loss of market share suffered by Holsten Pils,
among bottled lagers, and Carlsberg, in the draught sector, show how
quickly an apparently strong position can be eroded if drinkers do not
identify clearly enough with the brand.
Kronenbourg, along with the rest of the premium lager market, also faces
stiff competition from premium packaged spirits. An influx of performing
animals - such as McCann-Erickson's dancing cat for Bacardi Breezer and
J. Walter Thompson's talking dog for Smirnoff - are helping the sector
slurp up a greater share of the beverages market as a whole.
In using comedy to make an impact on consumers, the alcopops are
stealing the traditional clothes of beer brands. It's a tried and tested
route to forming an emotional bond with viewers, with examples including
Stella Artois' "Reassuringly expensive", Carlsberg's "Probably the
best ...", Fosters' "Honorary Australians" and the much-vaunted
Budweiser "frogs and lizards" and "whassup?" ad campaigns.
Mintel suggests that volume sales in the lager market have grown by an
estimated 39 per cent between 1996 and 2001. This is partly a reflection
of price reductions in the market, and as advertising needs to draw
attention to this competitive pricing, above-the-line spend has
sometimes been ploughed into price-based promotional activity.
Despite this, the above-the-line spend continues to be heavyweight.
Research by Mintel has also shown that 58 per cent of lager consumers
prefer to buy a well-known brand. As a result, brewers are choosing to
focus on their core brands, with the biggest continuing to get bigger,
by both volume and value.
This trend is exacerbated by growing consolidation among the brewers
themselves. The main players in the market are Scottish Courage,
Interbrew, Carlsberg-Tetley, Anheuser-Busch and Holsten. In 2000, both
Whitbread and Bass pulled out of brewing, opting instead to sell their
operations to Interbrew, the Belgian brewer.
Scottish Courage's portfolio includes Fosters, Beck's, Kronenbourg and
Miller Genuine Draft. Interbrew, now the world's second-largest brewer,
boasts Stella Artois, Rolling Rock, Labatt's and Hoegaarden in its
line-up, as well as marketing Heineken.
Interbrew's interests also include the previous Bass brands Carling,
Tennent's and Grolsch, with Carling and Grolsch subject to sale.
Aside from the wave of consolidation, brands have also been riding a
shift in the way beer is purchased, with sales of bottled lager
increasing significantly. The canned lager sector's share of the market
is declining as brewers rush to make both domestic and imported beers
available in bottles. Mintel figures for last year show Budweiser
retaining its top position as the leading bottled lager brand by
sterling value - due in no small part to the much-loved "whassup?" and
"frogs and lizards" work.
Beck's, whose presence Scottish Courage wants to boost as a mainstream
lager, came in second. However, the ground behind it is being swiftly
swallowed up by Stella Artois, the most strongly branded of the premium
lagers, whose share increased the most in the three-year period between
1997 and 2000. With "hero's return", Lowe Lintas continued to play on
the brand's classic "Reassuringly expensive" theme. The latest spot
features a French bar owner denying a glass of cherished Stella to the
war hero who saved his son's life.
Holsten's position at number four looks tenuous. Its 2000 share was up
only slightly against the 1999 figure - a likely trigger for last year's
review when TBWA/London managed to cling on to the brand - and it is
believed that sales have suffered further lately. In an attempt to stem
the decline, the brand drafted in the actor Ray Winstone for an ad
campaign aimed at the 25- to 40-year-old audience, but there is no sign
of things picking up for the "daddy" of lagers.
Meanwhile, Miller Genuine Draft's recent campaign featuring the Fun
Lovin' Criminals - part of a marketing budget reputed to be worth £9 million - doubtless helped boost the lager's presence into fifth
place. Kronenbourg follows in sixth.
Against this profusion of eclectic bottled beers, a visibly branded bar
tap can stand out. And Carling once again tops the list of draught lager
brands, by value, according to Mintel. The Leith Agency's latest work
for Carling featured a man shipwrecked on an island enlisting the help
of an obliging crab to help chill his cans. As with other executions in
the campaign, the logo and tap design is planted firmly onscreen at the
end of the spot. Carling is followed by Fosters, which continues the "He
who thinks Australian" campaign, and then Stella Artois.
Carlsberg, whose most recent ads featured a lorry driver caught taking
the lager out of the country, comes in behind Stella and posts a
worryingly small increase of only 2 per cent over four years. It is
followed by Heineken, which also only records a small increase in share
and will be hoping for greater things from the caterwauling B-list
celebrities fronting this year's headline-grabbing ads through Lowe
Lintas. Next comes Kronenbourg which, despite Bostia's doubts, has
achieved by far the highest increase in brand share over the three-year
The spend of the various UK brewers remains broadly in line with their
market share - with the exception of Anheuser-Busch, which is still
being heavily subsidised by its American parent. However, it will be
interesting to see how this changes next year.
One thing is clear. Despite stiff competition from other drinks, the
premium lager sector will continue its growth. While that theoretically
means a larger piece of the pie for all, the fate of Rainey Kelly's
Kronenbourg business shows that brands are under great pressure to
secure a positioning sooner rather than later. The high levels of
adspend and the intensity of the competition show no sign of
LEADING BOTTLED LAGER BRANDS
Brand Sales (pounds m) Sales (pounds m) Change (%)
Budweiser 266.0 360.0 35.3
Beck's 159.0 225.0 41.5
Stella Artois 67.0 180.0 168.7
Holsten Pils 122.0 138.0 13.1
Miller 35.0 88.0 151.4
Kronenbourg 33.0 80.0 142.4
Market Total 1,830.0 2,820.0 54.1
LEADING DRAUGHT LAGER BRANDS
Brand Sales (pounds m) Sales (pounds m) Change (%)
Carling 966.0 1,070.0 10.8
Fosters 670.0 770.0 14.9
Stella Artois 470.0 660.0 40.4
Carlsberg 510.0 520.0 2.0
Heineken 390.0 440.0 12.8
Kronenbourg 135.0 405.0 200.0
Market Total 5,154.0 5,535.0 7.4