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Corona Looks to Keep the Beach Party Going

The lazy days of summer will soon be a memory. For many beer drinkers, the change in season means attention will shift from lighter summer beers to the growing number of Octoberfests, pumpkin beers and other fall seasonal brews that are helping to drive growth in the craft beer industry.

Source: corona.com

Seasonal beer releases have been a bright spot in the beer business, posting dollar sales increases of 15 percent to 26 percent for each of the last three years, according to SymphonyIRI. (For More: The Great Pumpkin Arrives Early)

But even with the recent boost from seasonal sales, summer is still the height of the beer selling season.

According the Beer Institute, the amount of beer shipped from domestic brewers to distributors within the U.S. market in 2011 peaked with an average of 16.3 million barrels shipped from May through August versus 14.7 million during the rest of the year.

Few brands are better positioned to capitalize on the summer season than Corona Extra, the No. 1 selling imported beer and Corona Light, the No. 1 selling imported light beer, which both feature the tagline: “Find Your Beach.” But even as the sun begins to set on Summer 2012, Crown Imports, the exclusive distributor of the Corona brands in the United States, is hoping to keep the beach party going. (For more: Anheuser-Busch InBev Is Looking to Find Its Beach)

Crown is partnering with former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach and current ESPN commentator Jon Gruden in an effort to keep the Corona brand top of mind during the upcoming NFL and college football season.

Gruden will be the face of Corona’s “Find Your Beach For the Game” sweepstakes where fans will have a chance to win all-inclusive trips to one of Gruden’s top football game-day destinations, including college and pro tailgating hotspots like New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Ann Arbor, Mich., and Knoxville, Tenn.

The sweepstakes is an extension of Corona’s popular “Find Your Beach” ad campaign and an attempt to get people to reach for a Corona no matter the season. Crown wants consumers to experience what it calls a “beach state of mind” whatever the occasion, be it a sports event, outdoor adventure or music concert.

“It’s a state of mind and it’s important for us to remind consumers you can have it any time of year,” says Jim Sabia, the chief marketing officer for Crown Imports. “We hear it all the time [from consumers] when they have a Corona after skiing or during the holidays. You open up a Corona with a lime in it and it just takes you away.”

While Crown hopes to extend the summertime party into the fall football season, there is little doubt that summer is the time for the Corona brands to shine. According to Nielsen, three of the top four holidays for beer sales are Labor Day, Memorial Day and the 4th of July. So at the time of year when many consumers are firing up their grills or hitting the beach, Corona already has a deep “fun in the sun” brand identity.

“Corona is synonymous with summer fun so it’s a critical time of ours,” says Sabia. “It’s an incredible position for a brand to be in, to be so aligned with warm weather and outside fun.”

For Crown, the summer selling season begins with Cinco de Mayo, which commemorates a key victory by Mexican forces over the French army and a holiday which the company helped put on the map in the United States. It gives the Corona brands a seasonal head start in early May and puts the company in position to keep the momentum rolling right through Labor Day. (For more on Cinco de Mayo: No Siesta for Luxury Tequila Boom This Cinco de Mayo)

Now the challenge is to get consumers to extend that summer feeling wherever their year-round activities take them. Crown is hoping the “Find Your Beach For the Game” sweepstakes will be a good start.

“The people that love our beer, they drink us at any time, but we have a lot consumers that are occasional users and they have a tendency to drink us only in the summer time when it’s hot,” says Sabia. “The big prize going forward is how do we get those consumers to understand that yes, it's great beer for the summer but it’s also a great beer in the winter because it gives you that beach state of mind.”

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com. Follow Tom Rotunno on Twitter @tomrotunno.

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