But as quickly as Miller was able to get a foot in one door, A-B slammed another shut. The nation's No. 1 brewer said last week it had secured beer exclusivity during CBS's telecast of the 1994 Winter Olympics.
In the meantime, Miller plans to spend an additional $15 million beyond what was originally budgeted for the fourth quarter behind its top two brands, Miller Lite and Genuine Draft. It's part of an all-out effort to be both more aggressive in the marketplace, and defend a potential assault on its most promising brand, Genuine Draft, when A-B introduces its Cold-Filtered Ice Draft from Budweiser nationally.
Miller slowly has encroached on ground previously held exclusively by A-B. It began when Miller broke through A-B's grip on the Super Bowl last January, and got its foot in ESPN's door last year when it began advertising on ESPN's National Hockey League telecasts and, two years ago, on Major League Baseball games.
Miller spots for Lite, Genuine Draft, Genuine Draft Light, and Molson will air on ESPN's coverage of college basketball, college football, NHL, the National Football League's Pro Bowl, NASCAR, IndyCar and Sportscenter, as well as programming on ESPN2, the new sports channel that focuses on more lifestyle and 'extreme' sports such as snowboarding or skysurfing.
As a charter sponsor of ESPN, A-B had almost exclusive beer sponsorship of ESPN's major events until now.
'We had to focus on the types of properties that would give us the most bang for our buck,' said Richard Strup, senior vp/marketing for Miller. 'A lot of hard work went into getting this. This is pretty big.'
A-B downplayed the ESPN action, saying that it had decided to give up its exclusivity a month ago when it went to hammer out new contracts with the network.
'We will still be the largest advertiser of any category on ESPN,' said Tony Ponturo, A-B vp/corporate media and sports marketing. 'But as things were going, to maintain the kind of dominance on ESPN in the future, where competition was already allowed to come in on a limited basis . . . it served to redesign for the future while still being dominant.'
Backer Spielvogel Bates/N.Y. is Miller's agency of record for media buying. Planning is done by the individual brands' agencies. Miller's increase in spending in the fourth quarter will go behind new executions expected in the next few weeks for Lite from Leo Burnett Co. and Genuine Draft from Backer. Although details weren't available, the creative is expected to continue along the same lines.
The aggressive stance marks a legitimate wind of change at the nation's second-largest brewer. While it's No. 1 focus is still turning around Miller Lite, newly named vp/brand management Neil Harrison is taking a more micro-marketing approach to the brand, which harks back to his days at PepsiCo. The change may include more regional and local executions of the Burnett campaign now airing, and more aggressive local promotional activities.
'You have to create a micro-mindset rather than a macro-mindset,' Harrison said last week. 'The current (Lite) campaign is highly adaptable. The fundamentals are right on Lite.'
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)