Long before Diddy sold Ciroc and Bethenny Frankel crafted Skinnygirl Cocktails, Frank Sinatra sipped from the nectar of the gods.
That was his term of endearment for Jack Daniel's, which Ol` Blue Eyes almost single-handedly lifted into national prominence by simply drinking it and talking about it on stage. Sixteen years after Mr. Sinatra's death, Jack Daniel's owner Brown-Forman and Mr. Sinatra's estate are finally cashing in on what had always been mostly an informal endorsement.
A TV campaign breaking today will plug Sinatra Select, a super-premium version of Jack Daniel's inspired by its greatest fan.
The brand began selling bottles in 2012 at duty-free shops in airports across the globe. Distribution was expanded to retail outlets in select markets late last year and a national roll-out is planned for June.
The campaign, by Arnold Worldwide, will initially run in select markets where bottles are now available, including some of Sinatra's favorite haunts: New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami, and of course, Las Vegas. The campaign will go national in the coming weeks. The media buy includes broadcast programming such as ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and NBC's "The Tonight Show" as well as cable outlets including ESPN, FX, Discovery and Comedy Central, according to Brown-Forman.
The marketer plans to spend about $2.3 million in media on the campaign, which also includes digital and print. But the budget could grow, said Eric Doninger, VP-global marketing creative director for Jack Daniel's.
The licensing deal was struck with Frank Sinatra Enterprises, which is a partnership between Warner Music Group Corp. and the family of Frank Sinatra. The deal was timed partly to be in place for the upcoming 100th anniversary of Mr. Sinatra's birth, which will be celebrated in 2015.
Brown-Forman did not release terms of the arrangement, but the campaign represents a significant investment in a product that might only be affordable for the wealthiest of consumers, with prices per bottle of $150 and up. The whiskey has a higher proof (90) than regular Jack (80) and is described as having more oak and spice notes. Packaging includes a commemorative gift box and a booklet detailing Mr. Sinatra's history with Jack.
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Mr. Doninger said Brown-Forman hopes the campaign will have a halo effect on regular Jack. Consumer testing revealed that Sinatra even plays well with young-adult drinkers, Mr. Doninger said. "This man still really, really drives culture" he said, noting that contemporary artists like Justin Timberlake are taking Mr. Sinatra's "classic cool" vibe and reintroducing it to younger audiences.
As legend has it, Mr. Sinatra was introduced to Jack Daniel's by Jackie Gleason in the late 1940s, back when it was a regional brand. Mr. Gleason's image makes a cameo in the TV ad, which includes footage of Mr. Sinatra weaved together with high-tech animation.
Mr. Sinatra's frequent mentions of Jack on stage -- including toasting audiences with a glass in hand -- gave the whiskey a PR lift that helped make it a national brand. Mr. Sinatra was even buried with a flask of Jack after he died in 1998. "It is an authentic relationship. It has a deep backstory," Mr. Doninger said. "It goes well beyond some of the other paid endorsements that we see now for spirits brands and other brands."