Molson Coors promises increased marketing spend amid falling volumes

CEO Gavin Hattersley has defended the brewer’s marketing investment strategy after reducing overall spend in Q4, as sales fell short of analyst expectations.

Carling owner Molson Coors has promised to increase marketing investment in 2023, while reporting a 6.9% decline in global sales volume for its fourth quarter.

The decline came as the brewer introduced a 10.7% increase in price across its portfolio, which just about offset the impact on volume. Net sales grew 0.4% to $2.6bn (£2.2bn), just shy of analyst expectations.

Absolute marketing spend was down in the quarter, though the business claimed this to be a result of it discontinuing some brands in the latter half of 2021. Excluding those discontinued brands, marketing spend did increase across 2022, CFO Tracey Joubert told investors on an earnings call this week.

“We continued to put strong commercial pressure behind our core brands and innovations and the year-over-year comparisons simply reflect the significantly higher spend in the prior year period, when investments exceeded fourth quarter 2019 levels,” she explained.

CEO Gavin Hattersley also defended the “strength” and “effectiveness” of the company’s marketing investment. Molson Coors continues to invest more than 50% of its media spend in digital channels, a shift first hailed by the company two years ago. The business has also “overhauled” its approach to performance marketing to secure the best return on ad spend, he added. Heineken doubles down on premiumisation strategy as volumes grow

“We think our marketing is working,” Hattersley said. “We’re making every single dollar work as hard for us as possible.”

He added: “I like where our brands are relative to our competitors. I like where they are from a health point of view, I like where they are from a share point of view… As Tracey [Joubert] said, we’re going to continue to invest heavily behind our brands and we are planning to increase our ad spend in 2023.”

The business expects sales to grow in the “low single-digit” percentage range this year, driven by rate rather than volume as it benefits from its higher pricing and premiumisation. Over 28% of global net sales revenue now comes from the business’s above premium portfolio, up from 23% in 2019.

Demand for Molson Coors’ above premium brands, including the rapidly growing Madri Execpcional, has been particularly “resilient” in the UK to date, Hattersley said. However, Q4 fell short of expectations, as rail strikes and the unusual timing of the World Cup muted predicted demand.