How CPGs Can Score a Touchdown This Fall by Emulating Spiked Seltzer’s 2019 Summer Splash

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Across the beaches and pool decks of America this summer echoed one sound: the pop of a can of hard seltzer. 

Yes, the summer of 2019 was the summer of hard seltzer. The sudden popularity of the refreshing and low-calorie beverage — the spike in spiked seltzer — took mainstream culture by storm. In fact, there have been over 700,000 tweets about market leader, White Claw, this year, 85% of which were posted between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

There are over two dozen popular hard seltzer brands in the market. In addition to White Claw, brands like Natural Light, Smirnoff, Polar Seltzer, Svedka and even 4Loko are getting in on the light, bubbly trend. 

Now that the summer of seltzer is long over and football season is well upon us, these brands are looking to move from the beaches and pools to the parking lots and stadium stands. Anheuser-Busch already made a big splash in the tailgate market — a demographic with whom the brand is extraordinarily familiar — by inking a deal with the NFL to make its own brand’s beverage, Bon & Viv, the official hard seltzer of the league. A monumental deal that puts the product on the same stage as Bud Light does come at a cost. A-B InBev’s deal with the league will commandeer a whopping 80% of Bon & Viv’s fall marketing budget on the partnership. 

For many CPG brands, spiked seltzer and beyond, this cost-prohibitive nationwide approach to brand marketing simply cannot scale. So, how can marketers leverage the momentum created by the summer of seltzer and reach sports fans across the country to continue turning liquid into liquidity for their brands?

CPG brands of all varieties are faced with the tremendous task of understanding their unique audiences across each local market and on each platform. Marketers need to know enough about their target demographics to create relevant, compelling content that attracts and engages potential customers. Of course, finding a single commonality in your audience (such as “all football enthusiasts”) cannot work on its own. To truly connect with consumers on a deeper level, brand marketers must prioritize a combined national and hyperlocal strategy for social and digital marketing.

In a way, local football fandoms are microcosms for the communities they represent. Each franchise fandom possesses a deeply rooted culture — the kind of loyalty and camaraderie marketers strive to inspire among their own consumers. From high school matchups and college games to the national stage and beyond, the opportunity to tap into local sports to forge meaningful connections with consumers is conspicuous. The strategies and tactics to go about creating those connections, though, is far from obvious. 

To home in on a seasonally relevant, hyperlocal strategy for tailgating and football, brand marketers can look to the strategies hard seltzer brands implemented that resulted in the overwhelming successes of the past summer. 

Local cheers

In the NFL alone, there are 32 separate franchises, each with its own local culture and quirks. The most daunting part of engaging hyperlocal markets with national campaigns is creating and distributing on-brand content at scale across the country. 

Not all content served to customers will resonate on every platform ubiquitously. Having a happy couple in a nondescript green jersey gleefully open cans of spiked seltzer at the local tailgate will likely not carry weight with orange and brown-clad Cleveland Browns fans or proud Minnesota Vikings fans wearing purple and gold. 

Consumers are savvy and will react negatively to content that looks incongruous or out of place. In fact, research suggests that while only about 65% of the population are innately visual-first learners, the human brain in general is hardwired to recall images. Looking at the most successful spiked seltzer campaigns this summer, the leaders were able to activate on a hyperlocal level across many markets with an equal eye on consistent use of styling, prop use, and framing of visual content. 

Content should be created equal, but not identical. All content should feel both specific and consistent with the brand identity. 

Find your fans, leverage audience data

Sports teams understand who their fans are. They fill the stadium seats each week, tune in from their couches, engage on social media, and rep their teams fiercely in the face of any confrontation or challenge. Connecting and engaging with consumers that drive lifelong brand advocacy and lead innovation with first-to-market campaigns is essential to the success of CPG marketing. 

What makes spiked seltzer’s summer success so intriguing is that the leading brands, like White Claw and Bon & Viv, moved away from large buys across multiple platforms and instead took a more analytical approach and doubled down on platforms that had the highest concentration of their desired audience. 

CPG brands can take these audience insights to inform a seasonal marketing strategy, like capitalizing on football and tailgating season, that hinges on hyperlocal content executed at a national scale to continue to bring value to its target audience (who is predisposed to be interested). 

Sports fans across the country are gearing up as the season for football takes center stage in American culture. Which hard seltzer brands will be able to sustain their momentum as the air gets crisper and the days shorter? The answer hinges on each brand’s ability to connect with its audience and help consumers truly visualize their product in use, across all demographics, locations, and seasons. Done correctly, deploying these hyperlocal, hyper-targeted campaigns for football season (or even hockey, basketball, baseball and beyond) at scale does not have to be cost-prohibitive. 

Grant is the Senior Vice President of Shutterstock Custom (formerly Flashstock Technology), a custom content creation platform for the world’s leading brands. In his role as CEO and Co-Founder of Flashstock, Grant has helped more than 250 enterprise marketing teams, including AB InBev, L’Oréal, Nestlé, and McDonald’s amongst many others, change the way they think, develop, and source creative content at scale.