Coors Light moving off the mountain and into the bar

Coors Light is coming off the mountain and into its drinkers’ backyards, tailgates and taverns.

The nation’s No. 2-selling brand is rolling out a new marketing campaign that aims to re-establish Coors Light as the World’s Most Refreshing Beer. And it intends to do so by reconnecting with consumers in a way it hasn’t for several years.

“For six years, we’ve been asking people to join us in the mountains,” says Ryan Reis, the brand’s new vice president. “But we are much more relevant to our drinkers when we bring the mountains to them, when we bring cold refreshment into their world. With that in mind, we have to get back to talking about what makes us special, which is Coors Light’s ownership of ‘cold refreshment,’ and we have got to get back to where our consumers are, which is in bars, tailgates, backyards, hanging with their friends.”

The brand today is rolling out two new 15-second television spots that put the brand back in the same environment as most of its drinkers: at a hot tailgate and in a warm bar. Get a first look at them below:



These spots will air in a heavy rotation for the remainder of December, including during live NFL, college football, NBA and NHL games on FOX, CBS, ESPN and DirecTV. The brand also will advertise during top-rated cable programming across TBS, TNT, FX, Travel Channel, Discovery Channel, Food Network, Telemundo and Univision.

They’re the first of a slate of new ads slated for 2019, a key time for the brand, which like other American premiums and American light lagers has struggled in recent years.

Although the brand has held strong to its No. 2 ranking, it is amid a sustained slide, down 5.5 percent in sales dollars and 6.3 percent in volume year-to-date through Dec. 1, per Nielsen all-outlet and convenience figures. And because it’s so big, it’s critical that MillerCoors turn the brand around. CEO Gavin Hattersley has said turning around Coors Light is the company’s top priority heading into 2019.

Reis, who helped usher Miller Lite back to growth by bringing back the brand’s white cans during a four-year stint as a senior director, says his “job No. 1 is to re-establish our ownership of cold credentials, our cold-activated blue mountains on our cans and bottles for instance. Of consumers we've talked to lately, only one in 12 knew the mountains turned blue.”

So, he says, the brand is “starting out by reminding our consumers about our blue mountains because we want them to drink Coors Light at the right temperature. From there, we’re telling them about our cold processes: We’re cold lagered, cold filtered and cold packaged.”

Job No. 2, Reis says, is better conveying what Coors Light accomplishes for the drinker: “transformative refreshment.”

Reis, who spent his first two months in the job on the road talking with distributors and retailers, said he came away reassured that Coors Light is not broken; it’s still the No. 2 brand in the country and has an immense amount of pride and loyalty among drinkers. But, he said, it needs to do a better job telling its story – both to its loyal drinkers and to recruit new loyalists.

“We need our metaphor,” he says. “We need to be about red-to-blue, hot-to-cold. Coors Light needs to be in the middle of the story.”

The repositioning will not change the product or how it’s made.

In a way, the brand is returning to the types of messages that carried it during its heyday from the mid-2000s through 2012, when sales were blazing. During that period, Coors Light was hitting hard on the cold theme with campaigns like the Cold Train.

“People would be walking out of a long day of work or whatever, and they’d be exhausted and the Coors Light Cold Train would come ripping out of the mountains with frost and snow blowing on everybody,” Reis recalls. “All of the sudden, everyone was reinvigorated, social and connecting with one another. We’ve got to get back to that, back to telling that story that Coors Light is the cold catalyst for transformation.”

A corresponding revamp is underway to the brand’s retail marketing tools that aims to boost what Reis calls “thirst appeal” at the point of purchase.

Coors Light also plans a dramatic shift in how it spends its advertising budget. While it will continue to spend aggressively on television, it is moving more money to digital channels, “because we need to be talking to people in the right time in the right place,” Reis says. “If we want to talk to 21- to 34-year-olds, we need to be digital. And we need to reach them when they’re coming off work, not just when they’re home in front of their TV.”