Six months after Coors Brewing Co. hired Bryce McTavish to lead both its sponsorship and channel marketing efforts, the number-three U.S. brewer’s strategy to more closely integrate its national partnerships, marketing messages and on- and off-premise promotions is taking shape.

McTavish was appointed to the newly created position of vice president of marketing, channels and sponsorship in January in part to help Coors more effectively activate its major sponsorships–primarily its eight-figure NFL and NASCAR Nextel Cup team deals–by aligning them more closely with the company’s overall advertising and marketing initiatives.

The goal of better integration and more unified messaging is straightforward: Create more impactful programs that will generate added excitement and support from both distributors and retailers, with the ultimate result of driving more sales.

“Sponsorship is an ideal tool for activating at retail, so the real focus is to make better use of our existing properties and tie those relationships to the messages that we’re putting in the marketplace,” McTavish said.

Leveraging of the Coors Light brand’s primary sponsorship of the No. 40 Nextel Cup entry fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates shows how the new strategy is playing out.

Coors in May changed the paint scheme on the car to promote the launch of its cold-activated bottle–packaging that features mountains that turn blue when the beer inside has been chilled to the optimal temperature. The activation supported national advertising and retail efforts touting the new bottle.

The company will employ a similar strategy to promote its new wide-mouth can, McTavish said.

“We are becoming more proactive in using NASCAR and our other partnerships to more effectively promote new products and packaging,” he said. “It helps us leverage our partnerships more effectively at retail because it gives us a central focus that we can activate around.”

The new strategy has been well-received by Coors’ field marketing staff and distributors, McTavish said. “They like the fact that we’re integrating NASCAR with our local advertising initiatives, because it gives them something that retailers can get excited about.”

Coors is working with Supervalu Inc.’s Jewel-Osco supermarket chain on a promotion around this weekend’s USG Sheetrock 400 Nextel Cup race at Chicagoland Speedway. The promotion includes show car and driver visits, as well as end-cap displays; Coors is touting the promotion through local media while Jewel provides exposure in circulars.

Coors also is becoming more strategic in ensuring that local activation of national deals is relevant to the market.

For example, around last month’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 Nextel Cup race in Sonoma, Calif., the brewer swapped the Coors Light branding on the car in favor of the Coors brand because its flagship beer sells better in the Western U.S.

“It gave us a better platform for our regional and local sales folks to take to distributors and retailers,” McTavish said.

On the NFL front, Coors plans to support its football-themed national ad campaign by taking its Silver Ticket promotion to new markets.

The promotion dangles a trip for fans to see their favorite team play, with select winners receiving trips to the Super Bowl or Pro Bowl. Coors touts the promo on 12-packs, as well as through off-premise accounts.

“We’re working closely with our regional marketing teams to more aggressively promote that program,” McTavish said.

The company also plans to use the NFL to support a new multicultural marketing initiative. Coors plans to run Latino-themed promotions in San Diego and Oakland, Calif., as well as other NFL markets where it has team partnerships.

Coors conducted a marketing program around last season’s Super Bowl that included a bilingual ad campaign and a retail promotion that offered tickets to Tazon Latino I, a flag football game between Hispanic celebrities and former NFL players. It ran the program in markets with large Latino populations, including Houston, Miami, San Antonio and San Diego.

The brewer also plans to ramp up activation around partnerships targeted at African-American consumers. Those ties include football games between historically black colleges and universities, such as the Bank of America Atlanta Football Classic and the Coca-Cola Circle City Classic in Indianapolis.

McTavish said that it was too early to tell if the new strategy is driving sales, but he noted that quarterly sales for Coors Light have continued to increase in ’07 and that the brand had its highest sales volume ever over Memorial Day weekend, which was immediately after the launch of the cold-activated bottles.

McTavish was formerly senior vice president and chief client officer at marketing agency Zipatoni, which until ’05 was the lead promotions shop for Miller Brewing Co. Prior to his nine years at the firm, he spent 10 years at ad agency D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles and also was director of partnership marketing for Sprint Corp. in the mid ’90s.

How Sponsorship Works At Coors
Coors funds and manages national sponsorships out of its corporate headquarters. David Wilson, national sponsorship manager, reviews sponsorship opportunities; McTavish signs off.

Mauricio Cardenas, chief officer, Latin America and U.S. multicultural markets, approves multicultural programs, with input from Paul Mendieta, marketing director of U.S. Hispanic and Latin America.

Coors reviews, funds and manages the majority of its sponsorships out of its four regions. “Sponsorship with us is on a very regional basis, and most of our programs are run by regional marketing groups,” McTavish said.

Local and regional deals are screened by field marketing managers, who refer qualified opportunities to field marketing directors; regional vice presidents sign off.

For example, Coors Light’s sponsorship of the ING New York City Marathon was spearheaded by East Region field marketing director Steve Medina and regional vice president Woody Tondorf.

In addition to Medina, the company’s other field marketing directors are Walt Henry (Central), Jonathan Woman (South) and Jake Stevens (West). Regional vice presidents in addition to Tondorf are Linda Gawne (Central), Jeff Colbert (South) and Mike McGhee (West).

Coors’ regional deals include the PGA Tour’s FBR Open in Scottsdale, Ariz.; the State Fair of Louisiana; and the 93Q Coors Light Balloon Fest in Janesville, N.Y.

Coors Brewing maintains autonomy from parent Molson Coors Brewing Co. regarding marketing and sponsorship. Other Coors Brewing brands such as Killian’s Red, Blue Moon, Keystone and Zima are not active sponsors.

Coors Brewing accepts sponsorship proposals through its Web site; for a link to the company’s partnership guidelines and submission page, please visit www.IEGSR.com/coors.