The two biggest players in the booming cider market have announced large-scale promotions for spring.
Scottish & Newcastle UK said it plans to invest "more than ever" in market leader Strongbow and its "premium over-ice" range Bulmers Original, Strongbow Sirrus and Jacques . There will be TV ads for Bulmers Original and Strongbow Sirrus and a big sampling campaign.
Magners has begun its first unified national ad campaign on terrestrial television , showing a cider orchard in spring with the Zombies' song Time of the Season as the soundtrack.
The Irish cider will be backed by a heavyweight outdoor campaign and ads in local and regional press and radio in England, Wales and Scotland.
Magners is also headline sponsor of the Glasgow Comedy Festival later this month, as well as London Wasps Rugby, Edinburgh Rugby Club and the Celtic League.
The brand said it has managed to make cider a year-round drink in Ireland and plans to do the same in the UK. GB marketing manager Joanne Hayden said: "We're confident of turning Magners into a year-round success."
S&N plans the same tack. Craig Clarkson, S&N UK head of off-trade customer marketing, said: "We are launching advertising earlier than ever, demonstrating that cider is now a year-round category. Retailers should stock up early, in time for Easter trading, and ensure they give cider the shelf space it now demands."
S&N will be advertising Strongbow Sirrus on TV and through the Strongbow Cider House experience at music festivals this summer. It is also rolling out Belgian fruit cider Jacques nationwide after launching it in Sainsbury's last June. The cider portfolio will feature heavily in S&N's Biggest Round sampling campaign from May to September.
Sainsbury's launch is clearly inspired
Sainsbury's has released an own-label cider designed to be drunk over ice.
The cider, made by Westons, comes in a brown glass 56.8cl bottle clearly inspired by Magners and other premium over-ice ciders.
Premium bottled ales, ciders and stouts buyer Trish Penn said: "Off the back of the phenomenon it was absolutely appropriate that Sainsbury's had a reputation in that area." Sainsbury's ran taste tests not just of Magners and Bulmers but a range of lookalike ciders. The cider is made from eating apples, priced at ú1.49 a pint bottle, and will hit Sainsbury's stores later this month.