Tim Palmer Bulmers has vowed to outsell Budweiser this year by putting a massive cash injection behind Strongbow. The cider maker is aiming high with its plans for its lead brand and has increased its marketing budget by 50% to £20m. The brand has outgrown the cider market and is now competing with the major lager brands in the long drinks sector where it was the number five best seller last year [ACNielsen ­ 12 months to December]. Marketing director Keith Wishart said Strongbow increased volume sales by 24% last year. "It reached the number five slot two years ahead of schedule and now has the number four brand, Budweiser, in its sights." Cornerstone of the brand's support this year is TV and radio advertising, the budget for which has been boosted by 150%, from £4m to £10m. Marketing manager David Hodge said: "We are playing with the big boys in the lager market now and to succeed we have to consistently increase the levels of brand support." The company is continuing the Johnny Vaughan Loafing campaign and Hodge said: "This has given the brand real credibility which it didn't have three years ago." The advertising will begin in May, run throughout July, August and September and again pre-Christmas. More effort will also be put into Strongbow's sponsorship of Leeds United FC which has another season to run. Anheuser Busch marketing director Randall Blackford was dismissive of the threat from Strongbow. He said: "According to ACNielsen, Budweiser's off trade sales were in double digit growth in 2001. People are recognising the strength of Budweiser's position and we believe it has the strongest brand image in the category." {{DRINKS }}