Why Cinco De Mayo Is Such a Big Holiday for Corona
How the best-selling beer import from Mexico aligned its marketing so closely with the holiday.
Summer starts early for Corona.
The Mexican beer—which has been the best-selling import in the U.S. for the past two decades—on Friday will officially kick off a big marketing campaign timed to the Cinco de Mayo holiday. Along with traditional TV advertising, the brand is planning to ring the closing bell on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday, when it will also unveil a limited-edition lime-centric Snapchat filter. On Thursday night, Corona will transform the Times Square New Year’s Eve ball into a lime (the first brand to win permission to do so), and it will drop to mark Cinco de Mayo, which falls on May 5.
All these actions, Corona’s team says, will help generate buzz during the brand’s summer season—which is critical for the beer as decades of advertising have closely linked it to the beach and other warm-weather activities. Corona likes to say that Cinco de Mayo kicks off “120 days of summer” as it runs various marketing efforts for the brand through the Labor Day weekend holiday.
“Our positioning is clear. When you say Corona, people say it is about sun, fun, and the beach,” John Alvarado, vice president of marketing for Corona, told Fortune in an interview. “It is about moments that are aspirational and that you want to have.”
Ever since Svedka and Robert Mondavi maker Constellation Brands got firm control of the U.S. assets of Corona in 2013, it has enjoyed steady consistent double-digit sales growth for the Mexican beer portfolio that also includes Modelo Especial. Corona sold 3.18 billion bottles of beer last year, which equals about 100 bottles of Corona Brands consumed every second in America. Notably, it is the only top-five beer that’s gaining market share, outperforming Bud Light and Budweiser from Anheuser Busch InBev and Miller Lite and Coors Light from Molson Coors’.
As Fortune has previously reported, Mexican-style beers like Corona, Dos Equis, and Tecate have performed well because they are easy to drink, much like many U.S.-made light lagers. But they generally don’t generate the same scorn that some beer drinkers have for domestic brands like Bud or Miller. While there had been some concerns about potential tariffs on Mexican imports in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election victory last fall, those worries mostly faded after Constellation reported strong results in April.
Data shows that broadly, Americans cannot get enough of alcoholic imports from the nation’s southern neighbor. Research outlet Nielsen reports that sales of Mexican beer at bars and restaurants totaled $4.4 billion last year, an increase of 6.8% from 2015. Tequila grew by 8.8% while Mezcal posted a 19% jump. All three enjoy strong retail sales in the two weeks leading up to Cinco de Mayo.
Alvarado says Corona has been able to increase a leadership position within the $108 billion U.S. beer market by appealing to a broad range of consumers. The beer is equally popular with men and women, while the audience base is only about a third Hispanic. And while sales traditionally skewed heavily toward the summer months, Corona has launched advertising during the NFL and NBA seasons to maintain relevance during the fall and winter months. It also sees a big spike in sales during the end-of-year holiday season, when consumers are stocking up on beer for parties.
“Our flagship Corona Extra brand has been gaining share and is one of just three brands driving the majority of growth in the high end of the U.S. beer market,” said Constellation Brands CEO Rob Sands in a presentation to Wall Street last month. “In fiscal 2018, for the fifth consecutive year, we’re planning double-digit increases in our Corona media investments.
Corona isn’t the only brand that markets heavily around the Cinco de Mayo holiday. On Friday, consumers in New York City and Chicago can tweet #PatronMyCinco, and privately held Patrón Spirits will send them a link to get a cocktail kit (with reposado tequila) delivered within an hour of purchase for $55. For a few lucky customers, Patron is promising it will also send a live mariachi band that will deliver the kit to the customer’s door.