New high-tech retail displays will go up at 7-Eleven stores later this month, offering shoppers the ability to download free music on their MP3 players. The promotion is for a caffeinated alcoholic beverage called Sparks.
Twenty units with touch screens touting the "Sparks Power Playlist" will appear in test markets including Austin, Texas, Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, Orlando, Fla., and Seattle. After shoppers verify that they are of legal drinking age, they will be able to dock their players into a port (on the display) and download a song from an emerging artist being featured that week. No redemption codes or submission of personal information is required.
"Instant gratification is a consumer insight that applies to a lot of consumers and a lot of brands in the world of rapidly moving technology, content and digital imagery," said Herb Heneman, senior brand manager for Sparks, a MillerCoors brand. "That’s really all about knowing our consumers [and] in giving them something that is of value that they want for free on a consistent basis."
The screen and download port will sit atop a rack stocked with four-packs of Sparks. The 16-oz. can is usually sold as a single serve purchase from the cooler since drinkers consume one or two cans at a time. Introduction of the four-pack with the music download display could prompt shoppers to pick up Sparks to share with others.
Blender Magazine will be covering bands like Vampire Weekend, Dirty Sweet and Get Back Loretta, which will all be featured on the displays. The program is expected to roll out nationally this year and include advertorials in Blender Magazine and on Blender.com.
Marketing support will be subtle, keeping with the tradition of Sparks, which was a word-of-mouth brand well before Miller Brewing acquired it in 2006 from McKenzie River, San Francisco.
"You can push, but you don't want to push too hard because there is a sort of fragile and delicate balance with this consumer," said Heneman. "I think it needs to be something that is naturally presented, that's credible, and that is of interest and of value to these folks."
Ready mixed, caffeinated malt beverages are riding the popularity of Red Bull mixers at bars and nightclubs; these include Red Bombs (Red Bull and vodka) and Jager Bombs (Red Bull and Jagermeister). Energy brew sales at c-stores are growing at double-digit rates, and also attracting activists like the Center for Science in the Public Interest and several attorneys general that contend such drinks are marketed to minors.
Following a settlement with state prosecutors, Anheuser-Busch exited the alcohol energy drink business and reformulated brands such as Tilt and Bud Extra. Attorneys general also are investigating Miller. Sparks is one of the leading alcohol energy brands, having generated $114 million in sales at grocery, convenience, drug and mass outlets (excluding Wal-Mart) for the year ended July 13, per Information Resources, Chicago.
"We've seen a number of new entrants come in during the past few years and there are a number of them dropping out," said Heneman. "That won't affect Sparks and our dedication to market Sparks responsibly to legal drinking-age consumers. Whether it's getting crowded or less crowded, we're committed to the category."