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What's In A Name?: Growing Concern Over Coronavirus May Be Impacting Corona Beer Sales

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- While fears over the coronavirus outbreak have sent shares on Wall Street tumbling over the last week, they are also impacting sales of the popular Mexican beer -- Corona -- within the United States, according to a recent survey.

5W Public Relations, one of the nation's top public relations firms in the United States, conducted a phone survey of 737 American beer drinkers recently to see what impact the illness name of the growing outbreak was having on Corona Beer.

Their finding revealed how a name of something that has no connection at all to an illness can impact a product. Here's the highlights:

  • 38% of beer-drinking Americans would not buy Corona under any circumstances now
  • Among those who said they usually drink Corona, only 4% said they would stop drinking Corona, but 14% said they wouldn't order Corona in a public venue
  • 16% of beer drinking Americans were confused about whether Corona beer is related to the coronavirus

"There is no question that Corona beer is suffering because of the coronavirus," said Ronn Torossian, Founder and CEO of 5WPR. " Could one imagine walking into a bar and saying 'Hey, can I have a Corona?' or 'Pass me A Corona.'"

"While the brand has claimed that consumers understand there's no linkage between the virus and the beer company, this is a disaster for the Corona brand," he added. "After all, what brand wants to be linked to a virus which is killing people worldwide?"

But a spokeswoman for Constellation Brands, Corona's parent company, disputed the poll's results.

Maggie Bowman told USA Today that "while we empathize with those who have been impacted by this virus and continue to monitor the situation, our consumers, by and large, understand there's no linkage between the virus and our business."

YouGov's buzz score reported that Corona beer's buzz score — a net score based on whether U.S. adults have heard anything negative or positive about the brand — decreased among those who have an opinion of the brand, from a high score of 75 at the beginning of January to 51 as of late February, 2020.

As the outbreak has spread, searches for "corona beer virus," "beer virus," and "beer coronavirus" have increased substantially worldwide, according to Google Trends.

Searches for "corona beer virus" jumped 2,300 percent globally from January 18 to January 26, Business Insider reported. Searches for "beer virus" jumped 744 percent and searches for "beer coronavirus" jumped 3,233 percent.

The name coronavirus originates from crown-like spikes that can be seen protruding from the virus under a microscope. In Spanish, corona means crown.

Globally, more than 83,000 people have fallen ill with the coronavirus. China, though hardest hit, has seen lower numbers of new infections, with 327 additional cases reported Friday, bringing the country's total to 78,824. Another 44 people died there for a total of 2,788.

South Korea has recorded 2,337 cases, the most outside of China. Emerging clusters in Italy and in Iran, which has had 34 deaths and 388 cases, have in turn led to infections of people in other countries. that has so far killed 132 people and infected 6,000.

Like other stocks, shares of Corona's parent company, Constellation Brands, has fallen over the last week. Shares were off about $13 to $175.77 before the opening bell Friday.


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