Heritage and craftsmanship were the focus of alcohol’s biggest advertising spenders this year, as booze brands championed their roots in TV ads throughout the summer.

This is part of our Alcohol Report 2014.

Carling led the field, spending £13.9m on traditional ad space for the year to June, helping drive a 35% surge in overall alcohol advertising [Ebiquity].

MediaTOTAL CinemaOutdoorPressRadioTV
Brands Spend (£) Y-O-Y % % % % %
Carling 13.9 74.0% 3.4 49.8 4.1 0.0 42.6
Strongbow 12.7 120.6 1.3 55.4 7.4 0.0 36.0
Stella Artois 10.8 19.7 16.9 34.1 3.2 0.0 45.8
Foster’s 9.0 11.3 0.0 25.6 9.0 0.0 65.4
Guinness 8.9 54.3 15.4 21.0 2.8 0.0 60.8
Smirnoff 6.1 72.0 3.4 20.1 4.5 0.0 72.0
Bulmers 4.6 -34.8 3.3 34.8 15.6 0.0 46.3
Kronenbourg 1664 3.9 26.4 0.0 0.0 42.0 0.0 58.0
Jack Daniel’s 3.8 8.3 24.0 25.4 5.8 3.0 41.7
Baileys 3.4 2.9 6.2 18.3 12.5 0.0 63.0
TOTAL (Top 10) 77.1 35.1 6.9 34.0 8.0 0.2 50.9

Strongbow splashed more than double its previous year’s spend on celebrating the processes that go into making its cider - the highest year-on-year increase of the top 10 brands – with outdoor advertising accounting for 55% of total spend [Ebiquity 52 w/e 30 June 2014].

It also launched a ‘game changing’ TV campaign paying homage to the Herefordshire farmers who grow the one billion plus cider apples that go into making its cider. Using time-lapse photography and a split-screen the ad recreates the journey from scenic orchard to pub garden, bracketing images as ‘bitter’ or ‘sweet’.

“This is the first time Strongbow has ever celebrated its cider-making credentials and shows that, by combining the best of traditional methods with modern equipment, we can deliver a beautifully balanced cider on an epic scale,” says Michael Gillane, cider brand director at Heineken. The activity certainly helped deliver growth for the brand: value sales of Strongbow are up 10.3%, on volumes up 8.8% [IRI 52 w/e 19 July 2014].

With value sales down 0.5%, on volumes up 1% [IRI] the rise to prominence of Stella Artois’ Cidre accounted for a considerable amount of the brand’s £10.8m spend. The lion’s share went on a TV ad following Le President of Stella on his journey through the orchard overseeing the Cidre production to its Belgium recipe.

While Stella also played the premium card with a stylish lager ad showing a poolside barman skimming the head off the top of the glass and delivering the almost perfect serve to a wealthy lady, alcohol’s biggest advertising spender Carling focussed more on the male of the species.

The brand ramped up media investment by almost 75% to £13.8m with its first TV ad for Carling British Cider and the resurgence of its ‘refreshingly perfect’ lager strategy up to and during the FIFA World Cup. The brand’s 40-second office escape ad showed Jon stuck in the office with just minutes until kick off, and his quest to get to the pub on time.

With alcohol’s biggest spenders investing in their cider brands, Bulmers was the only one of the top 10 brands to cut advertising spend in the past year. The Heineken-owned brand spent £4.5m, a drop of 34.8%, but still made a splash with its Live Colourful campaign between April and September.

The combination of TV, press and outdoor ads depicted people enjoying five of the brand’s flavoured ciders in a variety of urban settings. With value sales down 0.3%, on volumes down 4.3% [IRI] Heineken says it has a ‘raft’ of plans in the pipeline for Bulmers in 2015.

After investing an extra 54.3% on ads including a heart-warming wheelchair basketball campaign, Diageo is also turning its attention to heritage and craftsmanship by taking viewers inside the gates of Guinness’ 255-year-old Dublin brewery.

The ad, which ran in September and October, features real-life brewers at work alongside a farmer whose family has been supplying Guinness with Irish barley for three generations. It was the latest in the brand’s In Pursuit of More series of mini-documentaries showing the beer and the people behind it.

“The performance of Guinness hasn’t been as strong as we hoped but it has improved from being 3.5% down in volumes in December to 1.2% down in June,” says Guy Dodwell, sales director for off-trade at Diageo. “Brand equity has also improved with the launch of the ‘basketball’ campaign followed by the new ‘gates’ TV ad.”

Brand equity has certainly improved for Smirnoff since the launch of its Gold variant, which was supported by the vodka brand’s return to TV in September 2013. Value sales for Smirnoff are up 8.7%, on volumes 5.7% [IRI] aided by a 72.8% increase in ad spend.

The investment included an ad telling the story of a man and a woman lost in a hotel who unexpectedly find themselves in a lively bar, where snakes appear from the sleeves of the barman’s shirt before he mixes Smirnoff Red with apple juice and lemonade to create Smirnoff Apple Bite. A second version of the ad, launched in October, championed Smirnoff Gold.

“With real, edible 23 carat gold suspended in every bottle Smirnoff Gold offers something different to the category,” says Diageo’s Dodwell. “To sustain Gold’s momentum we’ll be focusing purely on driving awareness.”

That awareness is set to continue with the launch of a £15m push centred around a TV ad with the strapline ‘Filter the unnecessary. Keep the good stuff’ in September to educate shoppers on the versatility and mixability of vodka to “adjust how people see the category”. 

As many players have been using advertising budgets to promote their heritage and roots, Kronenbourg fell foul of the strategy in February. The lager brand was rapped by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for a TV ad starring former footballer Eric Cantona which suggested Kronenbourg 1664 was sourced and brewed in France. 

Statements such as ‘If you find a better tasting French beer, we’ll eat our berets’ and ‘Here in Alsace…the hop farmers are treated like the footballers of Britain’ were ruled as misleading.

Undeterred, the Heineken brand re-edited and cut the ad for a new run between April and September, which contributed to an increase in ad spend of 26.3% to £3.9m. The glitch certainly hasn’t affected sales: value sales for the brand are up 9.9%, on volumes up 10.9% [IRI].

And Foster’s brought back its Aussie agony uncles Brad and Dan in TV ads for its expanded Radler range, featuring a volleyball game with two young female players.

The investment, which highlighted Foster’s new 2% abv Radler with lime & ginger and 0.0% abv version of Radler with cloudy lemon, marked an 11.2% increase in year-on-year spend for the brand, whose value sales are up 1.7%, on volumes up 6% [IRI].

This is part of our Alcohol Report 2014.

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