As sole sponsor of the Tanqueray American AIDS Rides, the gin is soaking up oceans of good will and publicity as five long-distance bicycle events roll across the U.S. between May and September buoyed by a rich mix of integrated marketing elements.
More than 12,000 participants are expected to raise $25 million-a record amount of funds for AIDS from one event, organizers say. The rides are getting live TV news updates, local and national press coverage, and Tanqueray's name is everywhere.
`FAR BEYOND OUR HOPES'
"It's the best money we ever spent-we knew this was a good idea but it has gone far beyond even our best hopes," said Larry Greifer, VP-public relations and entertainment for Schieffelin & Somerset Co.'s Tanqueray brand.
Mr. Greifer was the only one to respond of 200 executives contacted on the initial proposal in 1993. He instantly called AIDS Ride founder Daniel Pallotta, promising to back the first ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 1994, which netted more than $1 million as each rider signed up pledges.
"No other company had guts to get involved with AIDS in an event like this, but we knew from talking to consumers that AIDS is one of their top issues. It's connected us closely with thousands of passionate consumers," Mr. Greifer said.
The rides range from three to seven days, with riders camping in towns along the way that have agreed to host the rolling cavalcade.
EXPANSION OF RACE
A Boston-to-New York ride was added to the California ride last year and $6 million was raised; this year rides originated in Orlando, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Minneapolis and Boston, with record participation.
Tanqueray spent an estimated $4 million on this year's series of events, with its sponsorship woven into multiple levels but never overtly promoting gin. In-theater ads, print ads, an Internet Web site (http://www.aidsride.org) and 12 full-time publicists have helped drum up enthusiasm for the events in preceding months.
"We're careful to never connect alcohol with health issues or AIDS, but we make sure that Tanqueray's name is associated with all aspects of the event," Mr. Greifer said.
MR. JENKINS' PHOTO OPS
Mr. Jenkins, the character created by Tanqueray's agency of record, Deutsch, New York, shows up in materials supporting the rides in on-premise promotions. Photo opportunities with a Mr. Jenkins cutout at pit stops along the route are wildly popular with riders, he said.
Pallotta & Associates, a 4-year-old company with roots in corporate fund-raising and consulting, has been so successful with the Tanqueray American AIDS Rides that Mr. Pallotta is planning to expand into other events and causes.
Next year, he hopes to add a fund-raising event based on a motorcycle tour of Route 66; he also plans to add breast cancer to fund-raising causes.
"There's enormous potential to bring fund-raising into events in ways that make sense for marketers, with full-blown marketing, media and research components," Mr. Pallotta said. "We see a great deal of potential for future events with other marketers."