Jimmy Buffett sings along for Seagram tequila

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Tapping into the popularity of the white-hot tequila category and its most famous imbiber, Seagram Wine & Spirits Group the week of Nov. 29 launches Margaritaville Tequila.

The midpriced line, going up against category titans Jose Cuervo and Sauza, will be endorsed in advertising by crooner Jimmy Buffett, whose signature tune lends the product its name.

After a Dec. 1 introduction in Florida, Seagram will move into Texas and California, then roll nationwide by April, industry executives said. Print and radio advertis ing will support.

SINGER, GREY COLLABORATE

The tagline, "Margaritaville--no passport required," was the result of collaboration between Mr. Buffett and Grey Advertising, New York. Along with his "Margaritaville" mantra describing "the frozen concoction that helps me hang on," the singer owns several Margaritaville restaurant/gift shops.

In addition to showcasing Mr. Buffett in the media campaign, Seagram will pay half the freight for his Coral Reefer Band tour in 2000, sharing with longtime sponsor Corona beer--a brand that also has used a take on Mr. Buffett's "Changes in Latitude" as its advertising slogan.

Margaritaville becomes Seagram's second U.S. tequila, after Herradura--a superpremium-priced 100% blue agave spirit. But the goal is to draw more than Parrotheads, as Mr. Buffett's fans are known, to the new line.

"We want to be a player in the tequila category and, in order to be a player, you need to have a standard tequila because that is where the action is," a Seagram executive said. To do so, the new product will be priced at an affordable $15 to $18 a bottle.

About 6.5 million cases of tequila are sold domestically each year, with about half of that coming from so-called standard tequila, an area in which Margaritaville hopes to become a major player. One significant use of tequila is in bar drinks, where patrons often opt for the house brand to blend with a mix, ice and salt.

'LIFESTYLE DRINK'

"There aren't too many categories in the spirits segment that are exciting. Tequila is exciting because it has been picked up as a lifestyle drink," said Tom Pirko, president of consultancy Bevmark. "People from the age of 21 to 35 are really getting into it the way they got into vodka at one time."

With tequila a $875 million a year industry, most companies feel they need to blanket the category with a superpremium, less expensive premium and an even cheaper standard-priced line, Mr. Pirko said.

"There's all sorts of grazing and young consumers have been looking for something to latch onto. I think they've found it in tequila."

Copyright November 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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