Cinco de Mayo: More than a Reason to Drink Corona

Cinco de Mayo is around the corner and you are likely to be one of many who have a few Coronas to mark the occasion. Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican Army’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 (not Mexican Independence Day, as many in the US still believe).

In the States, Cinco de Mayo has become a retail pillar for many brands. In 2014, Cinco de Mayo took the mantle as the biggest drinking day of the year outside of the winter holidays, and one of the top five drinking holidays in general, based on consumption. In 2013, over $600M dollars’ worth of beer was sold, more than is sold on St. Patrick’s Day or Super Bowl Sunday. And most of the beer sold on May 5 is imported from Mexico, allowing Mexican import beer to prosper among US beer drinkers. In fact, its growth is second only to the growth of American craft beer.

The modern retail holiday of Cinco de Mayo dates back to only 1989, when Gambrinus Group, the San Antonio-based importers of Corona and Modelo, kicked off a Cinco de Mayo-themed ad campaign encouraging Mexican Americans already celebrating the holiday to make it a priority on this day to drink Mexican beer. The campaign quickly took a different direction and a life of its own. It morphed from a connection between Mexican-Americans and Mexico, and into a push to drink Corona – a huge win for Corona.

As the day has grown in its general market appeal, its connection to the original meaning has lessened and the excuse to party and celebrate has grown. As seen in this ad from Party City:

This has to do not only with great work by marketers, but also the time of year.  Early May is, finally, the start of spring in most of America, and most are eager to be outside and socialize.

While the holiday is a chance to tap the estimated $220 billion spent annually by American-Mexican households, Anglo consumers, curiously, are the real target. US consumers are preparing to spend at least $1 billion this weekend on products from companies such as Coca-Cola, Frito-Lay, a ton of restaurants, and of course the California Avocado Commission, who has said an estimated 50 million avocados will consumed Cinco de Mayo week. The difference between what Americans spend at the check-out counter during a normal summer week and one “branded” with a holiday can be as much as $500 million.

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