Steam Whistle teams up with MTV to break out in RTD

A Jersey Shore-inspired hard seltzer aims to help the brewer stand out from established players.

Juicy-beverage-Wild Postings

Steam Whistle wants its RTD.

The beer brewer has linked up with MTV, an “iconic powerhouse” in entertainment and culture, to break through into the competitive ready-to-drink space.

The first MTV Hard Seltzer flavour, Juicy Shore, is an obvious nod to the infamous reality juggernaut Jersey Shore and its Miami-based Jersey Shore Family Vacation spinoff. The product comes to life as beach-themed pastel tropical punch Hard Seltzer, complete with palm trees.

“We felt there was an incredible opportunity to take this iconic brand that is MTV, that we really feel connects with the RTD consumer right now,” says Bromlyn Bethune, chief growth officer for Steam Whistle. With the exclusive rights to MTV Hard Seltzer across Canada, Bethune teases that there may be other branded show offerings from the network in the offing and that it will “continually progress this portfolio.”

For much of its existence, Steam Whistle’s portfolio had only a single product – its premium pilsner – which it promoted with taglines about how it does “one thing really, really well.” But in recent years, it has been expanding that selection and also expanding its portfolio through strategic partnerships – licensing agreement with top American Craft Brewer, New Belgium; distribution deals with regional craft brewers – as well as looking to other high-growth categories outside of beer.

RTD fits the profile of high-growth, but that comes with a lot of competition. Bethune tells strategy to cut through on shelf right now, you have to have a brand that already exists and that people connect with, in order to stand out in a “David vs Goliath battle” against one of the five main players in the RTD space.

The genesis of the partnership is that one of Steam Whistle co-founders, Greg Taylor, left the business but has since returned, bringing with him contacts at Viacom and Paramount Canada, which have the connection with MTV.

The network has a lot of licensing agreements with Puma and Tommy Hilfiger, for example, but had yet to get into beverage alcohol space, Bethune explains. MTV wanted to connect the brand to one of the most poplar shows in Canada, as Jersey Shore is the network’s most-streamed show among Gen Z and millennials.

JuicyShore-LCBO-FD-HalfPg-VR_v2The reason it came out with a tropical punch is that it’s very much an RTD trend right now. Plus, the flavour profile dovetailed with the Jersey Shore “vibe” but also the boldness of MTV, which is a “loud brand,” Bethune says.

When approaching the MTV Hard Seltzer brand, being disruptive is a core pillar, Bethune says. “Ensuring everything we do visually is different than what already exists is a very important element,” she says. “So when you see a sea of white hard seltzer cans on shelf, naturally we want to achieve the opposite.”

The brand strategy is targeting a demo that’s into self-discovery and who have an emotional connection to MTV. That means a digital heavy approach to target consumers heavily reliant on social networks for product recommendations. The bulk of the spend will be on influencer activity, Bethune says.

Visuals are playing a big part of this brand across all digital assets, including lifestyle photography, social feeds, influencers and packaging. To drive trial, MTV Hard Seltzer will also be at various seltzer-focused events such as Fizzfest Toronto and London, as well as music events and street sampling throughout Ontario. It’s also hosting an exclusive VIP party this month with 1,000 influencers and RTD consumers, while using a Mini Cooper as a rolling billboard at beaches.

Wild postings will also elevate initial awareness of the drink’s availability at the LCBO. Heavy retail program investments with the LCBO are driving display and visibility at point of purchase.

“Year one is key, we need people to try our product,” Bethune says.

All creative, as well as product development, packaging, photography, media buy, is being done in-house with Steam Whistle’s team of 12. It is also working with The Influence Agency in Toronto.