How Molson Coors tackles the cost and clutter of football marketing

    Molson Coors made a splashy return to the Super Bowl earlier this month, relishing the lift on rival Anheuser-Busch InBev’s long-standing exclusivity over the event with a spot that showcased not one, but three brands.

    Broadly speaking, football remains a key destination for the Miller Lite marketer, though InBev’s closer relationship with the NFL and the often hefty price tags on traditional advertising present a persistent challenge to activating around the sport. 

    “Football remains the number one passion point among beer drinkers. But here’s the thing: [It’s] super cluttered and it’s super expensive,” said Erin Vitellaro, senior director of North American media at Molson Coors Beverage Company, during a presentation at the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) Media Conference late last week.  

    At the talk, which was given in-person to conference attendees and livestreamed over the ANA’s website, Vitellaro outlined a Molson Coors strategy that centers around three Is: integrate, infiltrate and innovate. A significant portion of the company’s football tactics stem from the second pillar, seeking to disrupt a crowded vertical through unconventional means.

    While Molson Coors does some typical sports marketing, maintaining what Vitellaro called a “table stakes” schedule for in-game ads, much of its biggest football plays occur on the sidelines, in adjacent channels that “sometimes matter even more” to fans, according to the executive. Those include the sports-betting app DraftKings, where Molson Coors is the top spender in its category, and the world of podcasting, on popular programs from networks including Barstool Sports.

    “With investments like this, we simply cannot afford to spend our way to [share of voice] domination. We have to get creative,” said Vitellaro. “We have to take a look and really understand our consumer and the touchpoints that they use when interacting with football.”

    Cutting through the clutter

    Molson Coors putting more of its chips on DraftKings has paid off as sports betting becomes widespread in the U.S. following a 2018 Supreme Court ruling. DraftKings delivers some of the highest engagement among young males — an essential cohort for beer — and reaches users for an average of 36 minutes on NFL Sundays, according to Vitellaro. 

    DraftKings was important enough to Molson Coors to factor into its multiphased Super Bowl LVII campaign. The two partnered to let consumers bet on the details of the beer marketer’s big game spot, its first in over three decades.

    Speaking to the granularity now available in the gambling arena, people could bet on specifics such as which brand would appear first in the commercial — Coors Light, Miller Lite and Blue Moon all showed face — and how many actors in the ad would have facial hair, with a prize pool totaling $500,000. 

    The collaboration represented the largest free-to-play, non-sport contest prize pool to date on DraftKings. For less blockbuster occasions, Molson Coors sponsors regular features like weekly pick-em contests.

    “We love it because sports betting is continuing to grow and explode and it has a very active audience on the app,” said Vitellaro, adding that the partner also wields “on-premise” power as users check their bets while at bars. 

    Podcasting also offers benefits that stretch beyond traditional ad placements. Hosts of shows like Barstool’s “Pardon My Take” or “The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz” provide support beyond audio programming through posts on their social channels, merchandise collaborations, live events and more.

    “We entered this space aggressively in 2019 when we uncovered an opportunity to develop a deeper relationship with our younger legal drinking-age consumer,” said Vitellaro of podcasting.

    “Over the last four years, we have had exclusivity in the top three sports podcasts and presence in five out of the top 10,” she added. “We definitely play into other areas in podcasts, but I would say sports is a cornerstone of our strategy.”


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