- On Sunday, Anheuser-Busch's Natural Light Seltzer brand hosted a yacht party and landed a helicopter on the boat during the Catalina Wine Mixer off the California coast, according to a press release shared with Marketing Dive.
- The event, handled by ad agency M&C Saatchi, was a promotion for the brand's soundalike Catalina Lime Mixer.
- Aboard the chopper was comedian Trevor Wallace, who released a parody video in June promoting competing hard seltzer and category leader White Claw, but who is now a brand ambassador for Natural Light's Catalina Lime Mixer beverage.
For those who remember the Cola Wars — which recently heated up again — here comes the Seltzer War, in the latest indication that marketers have seen an opportunity to break through and get attention on social media by taking direct swipes at competitors.
Natural Light Seltzer's helicopter stunt is the latest volley by a brand against a competitor, but takes a bit of explanation.
The Catalina Wine Mixer was a fictional event in the 2008 comedy movie "Step Brothers," in which one character describes the made-up occasion as "the biggest helicopter-leasing event in the Western Hemisphere since 1997." It has since become an actual event on Catalina Island, with wine tastings, music performances, a costume contest and screenings of the movie.
Comedian Trevor Wallace, who was onboard Natural Light Seltzer's helicopter, released a video in June featuring his riffs about the hard seltzer category leader, Mark Anthony Brands' White Claw. Compared to last year, sales of White Claw in July grew 283% to $327 million and product is now selling out in stores.
Wallace didn't actually have a deal with, or permission from, White Claw when he made the video, and that brand didn't take kindly to what became a viral hit. In their details about the helicopter landing, Natural Light Seltzer — which also calls itself Natty Seltzer — continued the story:
"That brand [White Claw] sent him a cease & desist. Natty Seltzer sent him a deal...and a f***ing helicopter."
This is just the latest marketing swipe by one hard seltzer brand against another as consumer tastes evolve away from beer toward lighter carbonated drinks. Natural Light entered the space earlier this year with its launch of two hard seltzer flavors at a time when sales are booming and White Claw, in particular, surges.
Last week, for instance, Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer — also in the Anheuser-Busch portfolio — launched another marketing effort against White Claw, in this case promoting a polygraph test of hard seltzer preferences. Just four of 46 participants who said they preferred White Claw Pure over Bon & Viv Classic passed the lie detector test.
Last month, Boston Beer Company's Truly Hard Seltzer launched a campaign that demonstrated uses for other alcoholic beverages that didn't include drinking them, such as employing whiskey to fuel a barbecue fire or vodka to clean a tire rim.