Miller Lite gets ugly for the holidays

Ugly is the new flannel.

For the past few years, ugly holiday sweaters have had a bit of a moment, turning up in social media feeds in droves. Miller Lite is hoping to capture some of that social currency to recruit new legal-age drinkers into the brand.

Miller Lite is wrapping the holidays in a tighter embrace this year with a redesigned holiday sweater, festive socks and a knit hat and koozie. With its white-and-navy blue minimalist can flanked in a reindeer-and-snowflake motif, the new promotional products don’t shy away from kitsch and already are proving a hit with consumers.

Released in tandem with the return of six-packs of Miller Lite’s original steinie bottles, the new swag plays a role in a national advertising campaign that’s heavy on events and in-store promotions but also includes a social media and television element.

Emboldened by fierce demand among its ugly-sweater-loving legal-age drinkers, this year the brand produced more than 30,000 of the holiday sweaters, up from 10,000 in 2016 and just 1,000 in 2015. And most of them available at Miller Lite’s online retail shop already are spoken for, though thousands have been set aside in each market for holiday promotional events, such as ugly sweater parties at bars, says Emily Martinez, an associate marketing manager for Miller Lite.

Both the sweaters ($65.95) and koozies ($4.95) are available for individual purchase online while supplies last. The stocking caps and socks can be found only at events.

“When the sweaters were released last year, the No. 1 comment on our social channels was ‘Where can I get one? How can I get this?’” Martinez says. “Demand has really taken off, and we’ve seen so much success this year with offering a complete outfit, we’re thinking about taking this even bigger in 2018.”

Prior to re-launching its original steinie bottle as a limited-time offer around the holidays in 2015, Miller Lite and other MillerCoors brands didn’t participate much in holiday-related marketing, leaving the season on the table for wine and spirits companies to take over. But, brand leaders say, there’s still room around the holidays for beer.

“Around the holidays is when people tend to get dressed up, and that’s our focus with Miller Lite,” Martinez says. “We believe our beer is perfect as is, but we’re open to a holiday sweater. This says we’re serious about our beer, but we like to have a little bit of fun, too.”

Because what’s better than reindeer and snowflakes and beer? Exactly.