Asahi’s marketing challenge for Peroni and Grolsch

SABMiller’s Grolsch and Peroni brands are set to be snapped up by Japanese brewer Asahi as it looks to strengthen its brand in the west. But while the acquisition of the brands – ahead of SABMiller’s merger with AB InBev – will strengthen Asahi’s product portfolio, the brewer must now face the marketing challenge of maintaining their provenance.

Both Peroni and Grolsch have global clout and have traditionally played on their Italian and Dutch roots respectively, with brand histories steeped around those ties. By contrast Asahi, which is not particularly well-known in the West, last ran a major advertising campaign in the UK back in 2006 but chopped and changed its ad strategy including underground ads featuring a string of b-list celebrities including, bizarrely, Bonnie Langford.

So maintaining the positioning that drinkers of Peroni and Grolsch have come to know will be pivotal for retaining their appeal, said Emma Rose Hurst, senior strategist at Brand Union.

“The traditional, proudly European and nostalgic positioning of these two beers is what makes them so appealing and worth their price premiums. To maintain their appeal, as well as their profitability, Asahi must nurture these - neglecting these brands’ heritage would be fatal. It would reverse desire to conspicuously consume them,” she said.

As part of the package, Asahi will also be acquiring London-based craft brewer Meantime Brewing Company, which SABMiller bought in May last year, giving the brewer access to the burgeoning craft beer market that is trickling through the UK and has already exploded in London.

“In this category, broadly speaking premium international brands are doing well and niche craft beers are doing well. With that in mind of course the acquisition makes sense; Asahi is effectively acquiring two other premium international brands, making its portfolio bigger, and most likely getting additional distribution benefits across the West as a result, said Peter Wilson, planning director at Iris.

“I can't imagine this will make much of a difference to the marketing strategies of either brand, or the way these brands are presented to the beer drinking public. Both have strong provenance creds…They are brands from the part of the beer category that's currently performing well, so I can't imagine Asahi would be looking to change that too radically.

The acquisition is likely to cost Asahi, Japan’s biggest brewer, over 400bn yen (£2.4bn), according to Japanese newspaper Nikkei, which will make it the biggest overseas buyout ever for a Japanese beermaker.

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