MillerCoors aims for bright future with Sol

MillerCoors is officially in the Mexican import business.

Under a 10-year marketing and licensing agreement with Heineken, MillerCoors this week assumed control of U.S. sales and marketing for Sol, a Mexican beer first brewed in 1899.

Aiming to get a piece of the red-hot U.S. market for Mexican imports, MillerCoors plans full marketing support for the beer that includes a full brand refresh backed with a national media investment rolling out in March 2018.

MillerCoors plans to reposition the beer, focusing on bicultural Mexican-American drinkers between ages 21 and 27 with a message rooted in authenticity and optimism, says Matt Reischauer, director of brand marketing for the MillerCoors economy portfolio and Mexican imports.

“We’re going to position Sol squarely in the Mexican import space, but our approach will be different than what you’re seeing in the market today,” Reischauer says. “This brand has a ton of heritage; it doesn’t come from a beach, it comes from the heart of Mexico.”

Inspired by a ray of sunlight, the lager was first brewed in 1899 by an ex-pat German brewmaster looking for a lighter-bodied, refreshing alternative to the darker, cloudier beers typical from that era. It is the fifth-largest beer brand in Mexico and has since grown into an internationally distributed brand. But it’s never reached its full potential in the U.S.

That’s something Reischauer, along with the Miami-based agency Alma DDB, will work to change. The agency, which won Ad Age’s 2017 multicultural agency of the year and took home 10 awards at Cannes Lions this year, “has done a really fantastic job building strong emotional relationships between their clients and consumers, and we’re very excited about their thought leadership and creative ability in reaching our target consumer,” Reischauer says.

Sol initially will be available in six-packs and 12-packs of bottles, followed by individual 24-oz. cans and 12-packs of cans. The brand and packaging will undergo a complete refresh, brightening its image more in-line with its new positioning.

Alma will help MillerCoors hone a message aimed at what it views as a white space in the market: younger, legal-drinking-age Mexican-American consumers “who don’t identify as 50 percent Mexican, 50 percent American. They’re 100 percent both,” Reischauer says.

MillerCoors will support the brand nationally, with an enhanced focus on six key markets with large Latino populations: Southern California, Arizona, Texas, Illinois, Colorado and Las Vegas. Latino drinkers are the fastest-growing segment of the beer-drinking population. Almost 20 percent of 21- to 27-year-olds identify as Latino, and they drink more beer than the average legal-drinking-age consumer, company research shows.

Isaac Mizrahi, co-president and COO of Alma, says MillerCoors’ decision to pick up Sol represents “such a big opportunity,” largely because the brand has established equity in Mexico and parts of the U.S. “So many companies try to create fake brands without an authentic story. But this consumer is a smart consumer,” he says. It’s also changing.

“This is a marketplace today, in 2017, that is very different from 10 or 15 years ago when it was mostly composed of immigrants,” says Mizrahi, who has no relation to the celebrity fashion designer of the same name. “Today, the immigrant population is still very strong, but there are a significant number of Latinos in the U.S. who were born here. That’s a very important distinction because these consumers do not fit the traditional box; they’ve created a new culture out of this vision that incorporates elements of Latino culture and Anglo culture to create a distinct culture that’s sort of a mix of everything.”

Marketing to these consumers represents a unique challenge, requiring a deft understanding of an evolving culture that loves fútbol and football; retains a tight connection with their family but also embraces technology, music and fashion; and communicates each day in both English and Spanish. They are forward-looking and optimistic.

“Above all, we need to connect consumers with the origins of the brand in a region of Mexico that’s very optimistic and colorful,” Mizrahi says. “One of the emotional aspects of this brand is fueling optimism. That’s 100 percent aligned with our target consumer in the U.S.”

This post has been edited.