Corona Light Shifts to Publicis

NEW YORK Crown Imports has awarded Publicis here its Corona Light business. The distributor says Corona Light is the leading imported light beer in the U.S, growing by 3.6 percent in 2008.

Corona Extra stays with independent Cramer-Krasselt, Chicago. There was previously no separate ad budget for the Corona Light brand, so the budget could not be immediately determined.

All told, Corona spent $55 million on ads via C-K last year.

The Publicis assignment was made without a review and reflects the marketer’s new emphasis on building its Corona Light brand.

“We feel that Corona Extra and Corona Light represent two large brands and two distinct pieces of business that can be best maximized via two separate agencies,” Jim Sabia, evp, marketing, Crown Imports, said in a statement. “It is time to develop a distinct image for Corona Light, and Crown will be working with Publicis in this area as well as increasing our support behind this growing brand.”

Crown said the Corona Light brand has a 10-year growth rate of 13 percent and is the country’s No. 6 import, selling 12.6 million cases last year.

In January, Sabia, a long-time Coors executive, joined Crown with responsibility for overseeing marketing across the Crown Imports beer portfolio. That assignment includes Corona Extra, Corona Light, Modelo Especial, Pacifico, Negra Modelo, St. Pauli Girl and Tsingtao.

Previously, Sabia led marketing efforts for two years at Constellation Spirits, where he was responsible for the repositioning of Black Velvet Canadian Whiskey and developing new creative for Effen Vodka and Ridgemont Reserve 1792 Bourbon. He was also the lead contact in a joint venture with Kenny Chesney, whose tour is sponsored by Corona Extra, in an effort to develop and market a new premium rum brand.

Prior to Constellation, Sabia spent 17 years with what is now Molson Coors Brewing. As vp, marketing and media at Molson Coors, he was responsible for U.S. marketing of the Coors Light and Coors Banquet brands. Sabia also oversaw numerous positioning and innovation initiatives at Molson Coors, including the development and introduction of the Blue Moon brand.

Separately, C-K confirmed it had “agreed to part ways” with executive creative director Dean Hacohen at the end of April. Hacohen, a former ecd at Lowe, N.Y., and Goldsmith/Jeffrey, was hired in August 2006. He’s the latest creative import recruited to elevate the profile of the Midwest agency to pass through C-K on the watch of CCO Marshall Ross. After an extensive search, in 2001 C-K hired Scott Wild, an acd at TBWA\Chiat\Day, to become group cd. He left in 2005. The agency is searching for a replacement for Hachoen.