Newcastle's indie-rock tie-ins target hipsters

LOS ANGELES: The 79-year-old British beer brand Newcastle Brown Ale is launching a promotional effort aimed at building awareness among trendsetters.

LOS ANGELES: The 79-year-old British beer brand Newcastle Brown Ale is launching a promotional effort aimed at building awareness among trendsetters.

The push links the brew to alternative music and a pair of well-known and youth-skewing lifestyle brands. The spring and summer promotion teams Newcastle with online-music service Napster and Spin magazine.

The ventures, said Formula PR president Michael Olguin, are part of Newcastle's overall strategy to reach taste-making consumers by relying on "the right kind of partnerships... partners need to really recognize Newcastle's eclectic, unique, irreverent" attitude, Olguin explained.

Beginning this month, Newcastle's "Ale Blazer" street teams will hit bars in 23 cities to interact with patrons and distribute Newcastle-branded cards offering free 30-day Napster subscriptions.

The Ale Blazers will also host music-themed games, with Newcastle-branded prizes that include key chains, hats, T-shirts, boxer shorts, and Newcastle Brown Ale/Napster To Go MP3 players.

"We feel like music - and Napster - aligns perfectly with our target audience: hipsters dialed in to what's cool in fashion, technology, gaming," Olguin said. "Not mainstream at all."

Even the Ale Blazers stray from the everyday beer-brand street team. "It's not about having pretty girls wearing low-cut shirts," he explained. "It's about educating the marketplace."

Newcastle is also partnering with Spin magazine for a "Get Down with Newcastle Brown" essay contest, in which one winner will serve as the brand's "official correspondent" from eight international music events in 2006-2007. Beginning with London's Reading Festival in August, the winner's blog updates will be featured on a Newcastle-branded microsite, www.newcastlebrown.com. The winner's writing also will appear in print and online editions of Spin.

Launched May 1, the contest marks Newcastle's first foray into the blogosphere. The microsite also features brand-themed screensavers, buddy icons, and a "Newcastle 12-Pack Music Player," which features monthly updated songs by artists that include Arctic Monkeys, We Are Scientists, Hard-Fi, and The Zutons, among other indie darlings.

While Newcastle, imported by San Rafael, CA-based Scottish & Newcastle Importers, might not be a household name in the US, it ranked third among the top 30 "Beer Brand Performers" in 2005, according to Information Resources, a sales-tracking service for the consumer-packaged goods, retail, and adult-beverage industries.

The consultancy wrote that Newcastle showed "significant year-over-year growth across US supermarkets."

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