Boxer Lager steps into Ontario ring

Alberta-based microbrewer Minhas Creek wants a punchy presence in the Ontario market, promoting the launch with a TV buy that includes unlikely beer spot match-ups such as Oprah, soaps and news, to be followed by print and radio.

Last time Calgary-based Minhas Creek Brewing Company attempted to enter the Ontario market, it spent $750,000 on a TV marketing push that ran dry while their beer was actually sitting in a warehouse, delayed by what co-founder Ravinder Minhas says was ‘red tape’ that prevented the product from getting on the shelves.

This time the company learned from its mistakes, and earlier this month Minhas himself drove around the GTA, making sure Boxer Lager was actually available before the TV buy starts running in full force next week. Airing on CTV, Global and Sun TV, as well as specialty channels like TSN, Minhas and his sister and co-founder Manjit Minhas will spend about $1 million on the marketing push to introduce the brand to Ontario consumers. After about a month, a print and radio campaign will launch as a follow-up, with the total goal to generate about 100 million impressions.

TV, with its mass audience reach, was important in order to introduce the low-price brand to the consumer, said Minhas. But also, it provides the opportunity to cast a wider net for the beer-drinking demo.

‘You’ll see our ads [during] Oprah Winfrey, on soaps during the day, sporting events and on news. That’s the way for us to reach a wider spectrum,’ Minhas told MiC.

The Minhas siblings handle all media and advertising production on their own. ‘We have in-house designers and in-house print shops,’ he said. ‘We’re able to drag down our cost quite a bit by doing it that way. It gave us the opportunity to buy more airtime.’

Since launching in Alberta 10 years ago, Minhas Creek has expanded to Saskatchewan and Manitoba, where it has about 15% of the market share, says Minhas. But if the beer competition out west is a boxing ring, Ontario is like the UFC. The competition is fierce for microbrewers, a retail monopoly means they can’t create point-of-sale deals with individual distributors, and Labatt and Molson dominate the market.