MillerCoors plans major digital marketing investments in 2019

MillerCoors is ramping up its marketing spend for 2019 with a growing focus on digital and non-traditional media as it seeks to reach a group of consumers no longer tethered to their TVs.

The company is upping its advertising investment on streaming platforms, digital and social media, long-form content and experiences in an attempt to broaden its reach among consumers as their media consumption patterns change.

“We’re increasing spending versus last year in marketing, but our investments are shifting to reflect changing consumer attitudes and behaviors,” says Brad Feinberg, vice president of media and consumer engagement at MillerCoors. “Our foot is firmly on the pedal.”

The major difference is much of that spending goes beyond traditional television.

Viewership of non-linear TV platforms (think Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, Roku, YouTube and so on) accounts for about 13 percent of total viewing, up 50 percent from 2017, according to third-party data provided to MillerCoors. At the same time, TV ratings remain down double-digits. Four in five Americans reported using an app or a streaming service to watch videos in a typical week in 2018, according to Nielsen. MillerCoors this year plans to spend some 35 percent more on these platforms, which the company projects will allow it to reach the same amount of its target consumers.

Americans are still watching plenty of video. More than ever, in fact. They’re just not watching them on the same handful of over-the-air TV channels because they’re not reliant on a single screen in their living room like their parents were. They’ve become their own network in some ways, customizing the types of content they want to consume and when they want to consume it. That’s often on the go, where they’re turning to the high-powered computers in their pockets.

Americans now view their smartphones about 14 billion times per day, an average of 52 times per user, according to a 2018 report from the consulting firm Deloitte. That’s a lot of opportunities for marketers to reach them, especially when they are near the point of purchase, says Erin Vitellaro, MillerCoors senior director of media and partnerships.

“As millennials and younger legal-age consumers continue to move away from TV, we’re changing our media mix to find the cord cutters and the really light TV viewers,” Vitellaro says. “We’re pursuing different vehicles and getting smarter about using data to target specific audiences.”

The company also is significantly ramping up its spending in digital media. That starts with its biggest brands, Coors Light and Miller Lite.

Here’s a broad look at some of the company’s initiatives planned for 2019 behind key brands:

Coors Light is investing more in social media this year in an effort to engage a new segment of legal-aged drinkers, who tend to spend an inordinate amount of time on channels like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

That’s not to say MillerCoors is walking away from TV. Far from it. “We will continue to invest heavily in top entertainment shows on TV and particularly in live sports, which occupy some 80 percent of the top 25 watched shows on TV,” Feinberg says. “But we’re also buying live sports and entertainment broadcasts on streaming platforms, which is where more consumers are moving.”

This effort goes beyond just buying ads. It means producing higher-quality long- and short-form custom content and finding the right media partners to help distribute it, building off work Coors Light did last year in successful partnerships with National Geographic, CNN’s Great Big Story and Outside Magazine. Coors Banquet also plans to make a sizable investment in this medium this year.

Miller Lite, meanwhile, will increase its presence in the growing gaming arena, including a continued focus on esports and mobile gaming. The brand also will continue with its Know Your Beer campaign, sparking more consumer interaction in bars, taverns and restaurants.

In addition to its recently announced partnership with the Kentucky Derby and Churchill Downs Racetrack, Blue Moon plans to partner with certain media companies on elevated culinary-focused content and events.

Mexican import Sol, which MillerCoors refurbished and relaunched in 2018, plans a strong presence during the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup, the biennial soccer competition held in June and July that includes teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean. It will air ads during every game, including the widely watched finals, on Fox.

Leinenkugel’s will debut long-form content in partnership with CNN’s Great Big Story that aims to educate consumers about the origins of shandy and the heritage of the Leinenkugel’s brewery.

MillerCoors also is making big bets behind Italian import Peroni — backing it with a national campaign that will include a high-profile partnership with Vanity Fair during the week of the Academy Awards – as well as with Cape Line, its new line of sparkling cocktails.

The company plans to continue putting money behind experiences, such as permanent or semi-permanent branded pubs, taprooms and vending installations, including a new Blue Moon-branded bar that opened last summer in Las Vegas, and a new entertainment district called Texas Live! in Arlington, Texas. That also includes a commitment to continue with music-centered initiatives like Miller Lite Bar 75 and Miller Lite Conciertos Originales.

In today’s fragmented media environment, it’s not just about delivering the right message, it’s finding the right consumer at the right time.

“Consumer behavior is changing,” Feinberg says. “The way they interact with media is changing, and we are working hard to ensure our marketing is more aligned to them.”