A Hard Seltzer Summer: How Brands Are Promoting New Flavors
Last fall, news outlets declared that the “hard seltzer fad” was fizzling out and that “millions of cases” were being thrown away. But judging by the number of cans of White Claw we saw in people's hands over the Fourth of July, demand for the popular drink isn’t cooling off anytime soon.
In fact, hard seltzer remains a top performing category in the alcoholic beverage industry according to BevAlc Insights, with a 21 percent share of sales in the beer subcategory and 3.3 percent of overall sales in 2021.
Although June 21 marks the official start of summer, hard seltzer ads start popping up as soon as the weather gets warm. Let’s take a look at how four of the most popular brands — White Claw, Vizzy, Topo Chico, and Truly — are advertising from April 1 to July 4, 2022.
New flavors for the Fourth of July
No Independence Day celebration is complete without hard seltzer, it seems. From July 1 through July 4, Truly ran a handful of Fourth-of-July-themed ads on Facebook and Twitter inviting consumers to “fill your cooler and get the party started”. These creatives competed for spend share with ads for Truly’s new, limited edition Poolside flavors. Likewise, we spotted an ad from White Claw asking consumers which flavor of its new Hard Seltzer REFRESHR Lemonade they were “most excited to crack open on the Fourth”.
While Truly stuck to its usual spend strategies over the holiday weekend, White Claw and Vizzy increased their budgets in anticipation of the Fourth. Ad spend began ramping up the last week of June, perhaps hoping to capture shoppers stocking up for barbecues and pool parties.
From June 1 to June 28, Vizzy’s spend averaged around $48,000 per day. Then, it shot up to $459,200 on June 29 and reached a high of $1.14 million in a single day on June 30 — nearly all of which (98.6 percent) went toward ads on Hulu.
Seltzer brands favor video ads over social
The majority of people who drink beer also drink hard seltzer, but Millennials are “by far the biggest consumers”. It makes sense, then, that hard seltzer brands have historically prioritized advertising on Facebook and Instagram — the two platforms used most by Millennials.
This summer, we’re also seeing hard seltzer brands leaning into YouTube and streaming ads. Three of the four brands we looked at are spending a majority share of their ad budgets on desktop video and OTT. This is a refreshing change from what we’re used to seeing from the rest of the Alcoholic Beverages category, which is still prioritizing social media advertising.
Between April 1 and July 4 of this year, White Claw has spent 40 percent of its budget on desktop video. Instagram was its second largest device in terms of spend (21 percent), followed by OTT (14 percent). Likewise, Vizzy split its ad share this summer between OTT (46 percent) and Instagram (35 percent). Truly spent 50 percent of its budget on video ads, with 31 percent on OTT and 19 percent on desktop video.
Topo Chico is the only one of these four brands that is spending a majority share of its budget on social media, with 56 percent of spend devoted to Instagram. However, video advertising still makes up a sizable chunk of its spend with 22 percent on YouTube and 14 percent on OTT.
Hard seltzer ad spend trends
White Claw is practically synonymous with hard seltzer, and it accounts for about half of sales in the hard seltzer category. It is also spending the most on digital advertising, shelling out $12.6 million since April 1 2022.
Truly is the second largest brand in terms of sales, but it ranks third in ad spend ($4.7 million) behind Vizzy ($7.4 million) during this time frame. Topo Chico comes in last at $3.4 million — which is still impressive when you consider how much smaller it is in terms of sales compared to Truly.
You can also see just how much more these four brands are spending than other advertisers in the Hard Seltzer category. White Claw alone accounts for nearly 39 percent of total spend and 40 percent of impressions. Combined, these four brands make up about 86 percent of total spend in the Hard Seltzer category.
Promoting new flavors, bursting onto the desktop video and OTT ad scene, and spending millions on digital ads shows us that hard seltzer brands aren’t fizzling out anytime soon. Hard seltzer season is just getting started, so it’ll be interesting to see how these brands’ strategies shape up as summer really gets into full swing.
After she earned her BS in Business Administration and Marketing, Pam spent time in the non-profit industry developing skills in digital marketing and creating digital content for two years. She then made the transition to content marketing for San Francisco start ups.