TAG McCann, Bass ‘Reach for Greatness’

NEW YORK Following its acquisition of Bass Ale’s import rights, Labatt USA is reaching for goal-oriented beer drinkers with a campaign that likens the Brit brewery’s genius to man’s first steps on the moon.

“You look at that red triangle, it’s one of the world’s oldest trademarks,” said Stephen Ward, director of European brands at Labatt USA in Norwalk, Conn. “Bass was being exported to the U.S. [in 1799], long before Coca-Cola was even an idea. It was the biggest-selling imported beer prior to prohibition.”

Labatt, which bought the import rights from Diageo’s Guinness last July, is using the product’s storied history to put its own stamp on the iconic red triangle. Nearly 10 months of research showed that imported beer drinkers identify with “this notion of accomplishment” and “people get a kick out of achieving things in their lives and having those achievements recognized.” Positioning Bass Ale as a brand that strives for greatness and meets that mark was a natural fit with its audience, Ward said.

The new distributor’s first Bass TV ad from TAG McCann in New York puts the brand on par with modern man’s best moments in a just kidding, not really kind of way. In the opening frame, a space-traveling brewer clings to the ladder of his lunar module while Neil Armstrong bounces along the moon’s surface. The voiceover says, “We didn’t land on the moon, we didn’t tear down the Berlin Wall … ” Another brewer is seen weakly hammering at the Berlin Wall, crushing his thumb instead. In the third scene, a horseracing brewer is seen chasing his run-away mount as Secretariat gallops to victory. “And we didn’t race into the history books,” the narrator says. Finally, the brewers confidently hold aloft a Bass Ale, while the announcer explains, “Our passion is beer. Whatever yours is, reach for greatness.”

The ad, which is running nationally on cable networks including Comedy Central, ESPN, Fox Sports and TBS, is the first of many, said Ward. Labatt plans to continue producing ads throughout the year as well as extend the “Reach for Greatness” platform to point-of-purchase materials in 2005, Ward said.

“We believe we really, really have something that is powerfully motivating,” said Ward. “It’s very clearly a call to action.”