US: Rival wholesalers support "Here's To Beer", says A-B

By | 4 May 2006

Anheuser-Busch has fiercely defended its campaign to promote beer in the US and pointed to the support of rival wholesalers as evidence of the programme's support throughout the industry.

The US beer giant fought back at claims from Miller Brewing and Heineken USA that the "Here's To Beer" served only its interests and shrugged off the fact that only it was funding the initiative.

Bob Lachky, A-B's executive vice president for global industry development, told just-drinks today (4 May) that the campaign had won the backing of wholesalers around the country, including those of its rivals.

"There is wide industry support at the wholesaler and retailer level and competitive wholesalers are signing up. What we need to put in perspective, is the perception of the industry not coming on board. This idea is really a Web-based idea, it's a platform idea to get the materials in the hands of local distributors who then activate those materials."

Lachky said it was vital that the campaign had the support of wholesalers and retailers around the US if the beer category was to be revitalised. "We can't turn our backs on the interests of retailers and wholesalers - their eyes can easily be turned by the profitability of other forms of alcohol."

Beer drinkers had already flocked to the campaign's website after a wave of grass-roots marketing activity in the US had promoted the campaign, Lachky said.

He pointed to a number of moves carried out under the auspices of the "Here's to Beer" campaign, including celebrating the anniversary of the end of Prohibition and ads encouraging drinkers to discuss with which famous person they would most like to have a beer as examples of successful "guerrilla" marketing activity.

"Web marketing is very exciting - no individual brewer is using it to the degree we are. I'm very excited by this - we've now got to go and sell the category."

Lachky said the campaign had had initial support from rival brewers but A-B and US trade body the Beer Institute had decided to part ways after the first TV ad was aired during this year's Super Bowl.

"It doesn't need a group of brewers and a committee to decide whether this (marketing activity) is right or not. We agreed to part ways with the Beer Institute after the initial TV ad because we did not want to get bogged down in a committee."

The campaign had managed to get "some momentum" behind the category, Lachky said, with domestic shipments starting to rise again in some US states. He insisted that A-B and rival brewer Coors Brewing had worked to "nurture" the category and had "added variety" to the products on offer to distributors.

A-B has in recent months signed deals to import Grolsch and Tiger Beer into the US, while also asking drinkers in New England and Ohio to vote for a "hometown brew" to be produced by the company.

Lachky also acknowledged that Miller Brewing had a "different" marketing strategy by focusing solely on its own brand stable but added: "They're not trying to grow the category through innovation - that's a fact. They're cannabalising the category."

Sectors: Beer & cider

Companies: A-B, Heineken

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