Back in 2010, MillerCoors and the NFL were as tight as a can of Coors Light and a plate of hot wings. The SABMiller/MolsonCoors joint venture had the NFL's official beer sponsorship, its frost-brewed Coors Light frozen bullet train was chugging through every NFL broadcast and the view from MolsonCoors' U.S. headquarters in Golden, Colo., was rosy -- even if the recession had skunked its sales numbers a bit.
Flash forward to 2014 and the results are a bit more muddled. Though a surging Coors Light wrested the No. 2 spot among U.S. beer brands away from Budweiser in 2011, MillerCoors' fortunes were flattening out. Mainstay brands including Miller Lite and Miller High Life lost sales and market share every year.In the first six months of 2013, MillerCoors saw shipments fall 4% from the year before. That dropped revenue by $60 million and sank operating income by $31 million. Beer Marketer's Insights predicts MillerCoors shipments will drop 3% for all of 2013, but none of that justifies a Super Bowl commercial. MillerCoors successes would, and it has more than a few of those to point to. Its Blue Moon brand is growing at a faster pace than Coors Light and is already produced in quantities rivaling Boston Beer's entire Samuel Adams output. It's also making inroads with its Third Shift, Redd's and Leinenkugel's shandy brands that are upsetting craft beer folks but improving MillerCoors' products and introducing them to a new audience. A-B InBev has exclusive rights to Super Bowl beer ads through 2015, but MillerCoors has plenty of reason to get into the game. If it doesn't have ads for its niche beers ready to come off the bench by 2016, it may as well forfeit any Super Bowl dreams it once harbored.