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Coronas Beer On Special Assignment

WPP's Cavalry is back in the beer business after picking up a new assignment for Corona. The former MillerCoors agency will handle a new low-calorie, low-carbohydrate line extension called Corona Premier that will be positioned to take on hot-selling Michelob Ultra.

A spokesman for Corona-owner Constellation Brands confirmed Cavalry's selection in an email. The line extension will be tested in a handful of unidentified markets next year. "Consumers are craving lower calorie, lower carb options, and Corona Premier will allow us to extend our offering and better meet these consumers' needs," the spokesman said. "We're leveraging the equity of the Corona brand to explore this opportunity through several small tests next year." Constellation has not revealed marketing plans.

Calvary's win means Constellation continues to spread Corona work around to multiple agencies.

Corona Extra is handled by Cramer-Krasselt and Ogilvy has Corona Light. Hispanic advertising is handled by The Community, which has also won some general market assignments.

Constellation announced the line extension last week at meeting in New York City for institutional investors. Corona Premier will take all the qualities that "consumers tell us they like about Mich Ultra" which are "full strength alcohol, low carbs, low calories, and not too much taste," Constellation's beer division chief, Paul Hetterich, said at the meeting, according to a report by Beer Business Daily. But the marketer will be careful to do "a lot of measuring on cannibalization," he said, checking how it impacts Corona Light and Extra, Beer Business Daily reported.

Michelob Ultra, which is owned by Anheuser Busch InBev, is one of the fastest-growing brands in beer. U.S. sales surged nearly 24% in the 52-weeks ending on Sept. 4 to $1.3 billion, according to IRI, which does not include bar sales. MillerCoors earlier this year had considered launching its own Mich Ultra competitor called Goldwing, but the brewer recently put the brakes on the new brand, saying it wanted to focus on Coors Light and Miller Lite.

Chicago-based Cavalry lost the MillerCoors business in August of 2015, three years after WPP established the shop to service Coors brands and several newer MillerCoors brands including Redd's and Smith & Forge. Coors is now handled by 72andSunny, while Mekanism handles Redd's, Smith & Forge and Henry's Hard Soda.

Cavalry's other clients include R.J. Reynolds, Tyson Foods and the American Freedom Foundation.

Ogilvy & Mather Chicago is popping beer caps after being named to head up advertising for Corona Light and Modelo Especial beginning in January.

Corona Light and Modelo Especial are part of the Chicago-based Constellation Beer Brands portfolio, and are among the most popular imported beer brands in the U.S. Advertising for the brands was previously led by San Francisco-based Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.

The announcement Friday is a big win for Ogilvy & Mather Chicago, made even more special because the agency hasn't headed up creative for a beer brand in years.

"We love beer," said Lee Newman, president of Ogilvy & Mather Chicago. "In some ways, beer is agency juice. There is just an energy around that category creatively that makes us really excited."

Corona Light is the top imported light beer brand and No. 5 among all imported beers, while fast-growing Modelo Especial has become the No. 2 imported beer in the U.S., according to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm. Michael McGrew, a spokesman for Constellation Beer Brands, said there was room to grow both brands, but saw a huge opportunity for Modelo Especial, which has been marketed mostly to Hispanic consumers.

"We see tremendous upside potential for Modelo Especial, particularly with the general market," McGrew said. "We're trying to be aggressive in realizing the full potential of this brand."

Corona Light spent about $7 million and Modelo Especial nearly $22 million on measured media in the U.S. last year, according to Kantar Media. Ad spending was up more than 60 percent for both brands through the first six months of 2014.

While he would not disclose advertising plans for either brand, Newman said Corona Light is well-positioned in the light beer category as an "upgrade" to domestic beers. The Modelo brand offers even greater untapped potential, he said.

"On the Modelo side, the growth has been incredible and still feels like a sleeping giant, because it's just a brand that is dripping with authenticity," Newman said. "It's an exciting opportunity."

Constellation Beer Brands is the No. 3 beer company in the U.S., with six of the top 20 imported brands, including top-selling Corona Extra. Other brands include Negra Modelo, Pacifico, Tsingtao and Victoria.

Advertising for Corona Extra is handled by Chicago-based independent agency Cramer-Krasselt.

Ogilvy & Mather Chicago has been doing some project work recently for MillerCoors, creating the Miller Lite campaign "The Beer That Changed Everything." But it has been a long time since the agency took the lead on a beer brand, according to Newman.

"It's been quite some time since we've had a full-fledged assignment like this," said Newman, who joined Ogilvy & Mather Chicago in 2012. "It certainly was way before my time here."

rchannick@tribpub.com

Twitter @RobertChannick

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