Dive Brief:

  • Boston Beer Company’s Truly Hard Seltzer brand is taking swipes at beer, wine and spirits in a new national advertising campaign, per a press release. The effort stars actor Keegan-Michael Key, known for “Key & Peele” and “The Lion King.”
  • In five new 15-second spots, which were written by Key and his writing partner and wife Elisa Key, the actor demonstrates alternative uses for alcoholic beverages that aren’t Truly. Those include using whiskey to fuel a barbecue fire, vodka to clean a tire rim, an empty wine bottle as a candle holder, beer to water a plant and scotch to strip an old chair.
  • The ads, which were directed by Doug Liman —​ known for “The Bourne Identity” and “Edge of Tomorrow” —​ will run across cable, social media and online channels. The campaign was created with agency Johannes Leonardo and is the first helmed by Lesya Lysyj since she joined the Boston Beer Company as CMO earlier this year.

Dive Insight:

Truly is capitalizing on the dent that it and rival brands like White Claw have put into the sales of other alcoholic beverages amid a consumer craze for hard seltzer. The Boston Beer Company label is leaning into dry humor and some high-caliber Hollywood talent, including Key and Liman, to suggest alternatives to Truly are best used for activities less glamorous or fun than drinking, like cleaning a tire.

In a press statement, CMO Lysyj made more direct shots at competitors, noting that Truly is now bigger than major beer brands like AB InBev’s Stella Artois and MillerCoors’ Blue Moon — two premium offerings. A key driver of interest in hard seltzer, as the new Truly campaign points out, is a lower calorie count than most beers.

Sales of big beer labels were starting to slide before the arrival of brands like Truly and White Claw in 2016. But comparing growth of the two categories in the time since creates a stark contrast, with sales of hard seltzer growing 169% last year to almost $487 million, according to Nielsen. At the same time, off-premise sales of beer flattened.

White Claw, which leads the hard seltzer pack, saw its sales grow 283% year-over-year in July to $327 million. per CNN. These kinds of results have propelled a slew of new entrants into the category, such as Oskar Blue’s Wild Basin Boozy Sparkling Water brand and Wachusett’s Nauti Seltzer. Major beverage corporations are also edging in, with AB InBev marketing its Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer heavily this year around the Super Bowl and summer season.

A proliferation of competitors may compel players owned by smaller companies, like Truly, to ramp up their marketing. AB InBev earlier this week also announced a new hard seltzer lineup under its Natural Light brand of reduced-calorie beer, which is marketed to college-age drinkers.

Natural Light Seltzer looks to up the ante by dropping the per-drink caloric load down to 30 calories, making it available in bulk 24-can packages instead of the more common four-pack, and pricing 20% lower than other mainstream brands, as reported by our sister publication Food Dive.