Tag Archives: brand marketing

Whatever happened to Stroh’s beer?

Five trucks driving Stroh's beer from Detroit to begin sales in North Carolina.

“18 Wheels of Love.” Five trucks driving Stroh’s beer from Detroit to begin sales in North Carolina. The name “18 Wheels of Love” comes from a song performed by The Serfs, which included my friend Frank Buscemi.

From 1975 until 1989, I helped promote Stroh’s beer regionally, then nationally. The Stroh Brewery Company, a Detroit icon, began expanding its flagship brand Stroh’s in about 1973. When I began working with them through Anthony M. Franco, Inc. Public Relations, Stroh’s was sold in 11 states. Goebel, another Stroh Brewery Company beer brand, was in seven states. At the time, Stroh was the eighth largest brewing company in the United States, producing 5.1 million barrels of beer annually.

(To be clear, “Stroh” refers to Stroh Brewery Company, while “Stroh’s” is the beer brand. You worked at Stroh; you drank Stroh’s.)

From 1975 through 1985, Stroh expanded into all 50 states. At the same time, it acquired the Schaefer brand in 1981 and much larger Schlitz—the beer that made Milwaukee famous—in a hostile takeover in 1982. Stroh then grew to be the third largest brewing company, behind only Anheuser-Busch and Miller, brewing 24.3 million barrels of beer annually at its peak.

Stroh also added Stroh’s Light and Stroh’s Signature to its beer line, plus all the brands of the newly acquired companies. Eventually there were 22 brands of beer owned and marketed by the company.

As one Stroh executive put it, I had earned my “advanced public-relations degree” during my years working with them.

Working with the Stroh marketing team, we promoted the brands (mostly Stroh’s beer) in a series of special events and sponsorships, from regional snowmobile races to national venues like the World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tenn. Also, major racing series such as Formula One, NASCAR and Indy Car, and teams, music concerts, Toughman Contests and more.

Ultimately, Stroh could not compete against the “big boys” at A-B and Miller in the long term. In my book, The Power of Ownership: How to Build a Career and a Business, there are 61 pages with photos telling, sadly I feel, the ending of a Detroit success story. I spoke with and interviewed numerous former Stroh execs to gather the information for the book. I also detail the closing of the original brewing facility on Gratiot Avenue in Detroit, and feature photos of the plant, including when it was imploded.

My experience working with the Stroh Brewery Company was the key to building my career and set the stage for the rest of my time in PR and in business. As one of the Stroh executives put it, I earned my “advanced public-relations degree” during my years working with them.