Pete’s Takes It Outside Against Boston Beer, Using Black Rocket To Position New ESP Lager

Pete’s Brewing next month breaks outdoor ads positioning its new workhorse beer, Pete’s Extra Smooth Pub (ESP) Lager, as “almost as easy to drink as free beer.”
The ads, from Black Rocket, San Francisco, targeting New York, Chicago, San Francisco and a few other metros, are crucial for a No. 2 craft beer player trying to reverse sales declines and seeking a strong partner.
The concentrated outdoor attack should attain impact while dodging the beer clutter in print, radio and TV, said Omer Malchin, the brewer’s marketing vice president. That approach puts Pete’s on a sharply contrasting tack to No. 1 player Boston Beer, now readying a major broadcast blitz, including national cable, regional and spot TV, of more aspirationally oriented ads for Samuel Adams, via agency Carmichael Lynch, Minneapolis. Boston Beer executives declined to comment, but sources said the budget could exceed the $20-30 million spent by import powerhouse Heineken.
ESP, anchoring the media schedule until the richer-bodied Pete’s Wicked Ale takes over after summer, is positioned as a “more approachable but quality” alternative to imports such as Beck’s, Malchin said. “What a concept. A craft beer you can drink when you’re thirsty,” one ad offers.
The firm’s repositioning has drawn intense conjecture for trying to establish a new volume leader at a tough time for any new products, dialing down the “Wicked” positioning that lent the brand a raffish appeal, and essaying a lager after only Easy Ale and Golden Ale brews were market-tested. “Wicked” is now associated only with the ale.
“The decision was not taken lightly, but people really do call the brand Pete’s,” said Scott Barnum, president and chief operating officer. The change is not expected to cost the brand its equity as a fun, approachable, sociable beer, in contrast to the more traditional, conservative Sam Adams, Barnum said.