The larrikin, former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who passed in 2019, would have downed a few pints and shouted a few more to this one: Hawke’s Brewing Co, with an established foothold in Eastern metro markets as a loveable premium challenger brand, had a blind spot – rural Australia. The beer company he helped establish wanted to put that right in country NSW by running an advertising campaign with ACM, the publisher of more than 100 news brands, including The Canberra Times, Newcastle Herald, Illawarra Mercury and popular farming titles. The six-month effort drove a frothy double-digit sales uplift against a premium beer category that was off 11 per cent and broader beer category sales flatlining in the bush. Hawke’s Brewing CEO Glen Brasington and ACM’s MD Tony Kendall have one message to metro media and marketing types: with 35 per cent of the population landing just 8 per cent of national ad spend, don’t ignore the bush – and pubs. Bob Hawke rarely did.
What you need to know:
- Hawke’s Brewing Co wanted to raise brand awareness and sales in country NSW, so enlisted the help of newspaper business ACM.
- It ran a campaign across 14 mastheads in country NSW, helping lifts sales in those regions by 16 per cent – which is well above its competitive set.
- Hawke’s Brewing Co CEO Glen Brasington and ACM MD Tony Kendall said that brands tend to ignore country markets despite more than one third of Australians living outside of metropolitan areas.
- As more young people leave costly cities for the sticks, they’ve encouraged brands and agency partners to consider reaching additional audiences in the country.
Premium beer company Hawke’s Brewing has gone bush, urging patrons to drink ‘one for the country’, in a partnership with community newspaper group ACM that delivered frothy results.
During six months of activity, Hawke’s ran a print campaign across 14 daily news mastheads, weekly titles and its Agri network. In the year to June 2023, ACM said the print campaign contributed to a 16 per cent sales uplift in the regions where activity ran at a time when the beer market was flat and premium beer sales dropped by 11 per cent.
The Hawke’s brand was set up by co-founders Nathan Lennon and David Gibson alongside former Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke in 2017. It targets 30 to 60 year olds and is an established brand along East Coast cities, in particular in Sydney. Although it has distribution coverage in the major regional cities, it doesn’t run large brand campaigns outside metro markets.
The Hawke’s marketing team got in touch with ACM to increase its brand awareness in regional areas of NSW last summer in a media channel (newspapers) more commonly associated with price promotion and call to action activity.
Country vs city
Hawke’s Brewing Co CEO Glen Brasington, who grew up in Forster-Tuncurry in NSW, said the beer company was looking for ways to cut through outside of metro areas where the premium beer category is cluttered and “everyone is doing the same thing”.
“This campaign worked really well for us in Newcastle, Shoalhaven and the Illawarra regions where we have got decent distribution, but just don’t activate there. So this was a bit of additional visibility and awareness driving activity,” he said.
“A lot of brands probably ignore rural Australia because it is not easy to go and buy media or execute these types of strategies in individual towns, but you need to look at country Australia as a collective audience. Our campaign was, ‘One for the Country’, and although we meant it in the context of Australia, it could be interpreted as one for the country versus the city.”
‘Bibles of the bush’
ACM MD Tony Kendall said that newspapers still play a critical role for country communities, describing them as “bibles for the bush”.
Hawke’s Brewing’s campaign may not signal a second coming for advertising dollars into the regions, but Kendall said the results should serve as a wake up call for marketers and agency partners who overlook the country.
“What we have seen post-COVID is that the average age in regional areas has dropped from 37 to 34, so millennials are moving here due to the cost of living crisis, real estate in cities and those sorts of things,” he said, citing a recent University of Canberra and ACM Heartbeat of Australia survey. “People in the regions particularly want national brands to show up and they like it when national brands are seen to be supporting their community.”
“Most advertising agencies and some of the people in marketing tend to have a very metro-centric view of the world. It’s telling that 35 per cent of the population of Australia live outside of the capital cities yet these regions only receive 8 per cent of the spend.”
Hawkes Brewing’s next marketing push is in Metro Victoria, ACM will be hoping its regional ‘One for the Country’ turns into a six pack.