MillerCoors Believes it Can Win the War Against A-B, Here’s How

Dear Client:

It didn’t take long for the corn talk to start at MillerCoors’ Distributor Convention in Tampa yesterday morning. We had our first corn reference about 15 seconds in.

Chief Gavin Hattersley cracked a joke as he took the stage to kick things off, welcoming the crowd of 3,000 to MillerCoors’ “CORNvention.” It was one of many early morning wisecracks from Gavin. You could say he had a little spring in his step.

He wasn’t the only one, the majority of people up on the big screen at MCDC seemed a little charged up.

It was quite a contrast from the last time we saw MillerCoors brass up on stage – that was their abbreviated distributor meeting during NBWA in San Diego late last year. What explains the difference? Besides a new year and new CMO, Michelle St. Jacques, the only big event we can point to between now and then is CornGate.

Indeed, Gavin sent his thanks to A-B. “Anheuser-Busch galvanized all of you and all of our employees across the country,” he told the crowd.

While the attacks from A-B may have lit a fire in MillerCoors’ belly, Gavin insisted that they “will win in 2019 because of how we are working together, the actions that we take. Not just because of what [Anheuser-Busch] did to us.”

What are these “actions” that Gavin and company are taking? There’s three big ones the top brass emphasized throughout the meeting.

  1. Move Faster
  2. Take More Risks
  3. Connect Better with Consumers

Gavin claimed they’ve executed on all three of these so far in 2019.

“Do we have more work to do? Absolutely we do. Is the war that ABI started over? Not a chance. But what the past six weeks has shown, is that we can win when we move faster. We can win when we take more risks. We can win when we connect better with our consumers. What the past six weeks has shown, is when we do that, we can win the war.”


There’s plenty to get into from yesterday… the plans for Coors Light and Miller Lite this year, of course; the forthcoming national ad campaign for Peroni; the $26 million investment behind their new FMB play, Cape Line; and some other new interesting innovations they’re currently testing.

But before we dive into all that, let’s get into what we believe was the star of the show: Saint Archer Gold.

Pretty much everyone we spoke to at the conference believes the brand is a winner.

It was clear the craft light lager, which holds 95 calories and 2.6 carbs, was in hot demand. Distributors made a beeline to the Saint Archer hut at the start of the brand showcase reception last night, as it was going quick during the welcome reception the night before.

Why do people consider Saint Archer Gold such a great opportunity? “It’s the brand’s strong appeal with Michelob Ultra and craft drinkers,” said Tenth & Blake’s VP of marketing and sales, Paul Verdu.

“Many Ultra drinkers have defaulted to [Mich Ultra] because of the carbs and calories, but now they’ll have an option from a craft brewer who connects more closely to their outlook on life,” Paul said on stage. “Plus, craft drinkers love the idea of a lighter alternative that lets them stay in the craft segment.”

Although it has craft attributes and a calorie/carb count identical to Mich Ultra, Saint Archer Gold isn’t just about moving beer drinkers from one brand to another, he said. “Our research tells us that one-third of Saint Archer Gold’s volume will come from outside of beer.”

As you know, the brand is currently limited to four test markets right now — Arizona, Austin, Indianapolis and Charlotte — but MillerCoors is going big in those four testing grounds, supporting the brand at a “level equal to a $30 million-dollar national launch,” Paul said.

They’ve already “achieved significant distribution” in their “test markets with major retailers,” Paul said. These retailers are taking on “multiple SKUs,” and MillerCoors is “placing it and pricing it with Mich Ultra,” he said, “so we can take them head on.” He closed out saying, “We believe we can own this space and when we see that play out in the test markets, we’ll move quickly to capitalize.”
Much more from MCDC tomorrow.


Later this month, bargoers at select accounts in New York, Philadelphia, Dallas, Omaha and Las Vegas will be the beneficiaries of the #CornGate saga.

It’s MillerCoors’ latest volley, delivered during its Tampa convention: Smart Coors Light taps, “powered by Bud Light negativity.”

“Each time Bud Light talks about Coors Light on social or broadcast media, the tap handle illuminates, signaling that each legal-age patron will get a free Coors Light,” the company wrote on its Behind the Beer blog.

The promo launches March 22, at the outset of the national college basketball tournament. (Besides the select cities, “a simplified version also will be available more broadly,” blog promises.)
“When they bring hate, we will literally bring light,” said Ryan Reis, VP of the Coors brand family. “The more Bud Light talks, the more we refresh.”

HOW THE HECK WILL THEY KNOW? According to the blog, they’ll be tracking these mentions in real time.

A-B’s senior director of corporate communications, Josh Gold, had a response.

“Free beer is a good thing. So is talking about the ingredients inside of beer. We continue to remain focused on transparency because we know that is what consumers are looking for. Knowing what is and isn’t in your beer – whether you paid for it or not – can only be good for the beer industry overall.”

Until tomorrow,

Harry, Jenn, and Jordan

“I never did give anybody hell. I just told the truth, and they thought it was hell.” – Harry S Truman

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