Diageo Panders to Boozin' Politicians

Tries to Capitalize on Clinton Crown Royal Shot

By Published on .

The shot seen 'round the world.
The shot seen 'round the world. Credit: AP
Looking to pounce on some free campaign publicity, Diageo is touting Hillary Clinton's shot-and-a-beer act in an Indiana bar earlier this week as a watershed moment for alcohol in politics and, perhaps, alcohol marketing through politics.

Mrs. Clinton was trying to buffer her blue-collar image -- no easy trick when you've made more than $100 million over seven years -- to draw contrasts with her allegedly elitist opponent, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, when she downed a shot of Crown Royal Canadian whiskey in front of TV cameras.

"It used to be that whenever the cameras came around, you'd see the politicians hiding their drinks behind their back," said a Diageo spokesman. "But she was using it ... as a way of touching the people."

Diageo -- awash in free hype from the much-reported episode -- isn't planning on using Mrs. Clinton in any Crown Royal ads, but the spokesman said the episode inspired it to market one of its smaller brands more directly to politicians.

The marketer is sending bottles of its heretofore obscure Jeremiah Weed Bourbon Liqueur to all three remaining presidential campaigns. And the brand's elderly namesake will apparently make regular political pronouncements on the brand's website.

The spokesman said he thought the brand -- said to have a large following among fighter pilots, with most of its distribution centered around military bases -- could catch on "in those smoke-filled rooms." He says it'll rely on sampling, word-of-mouth, and a brand website launched today to achieve that.

A tasting in Ad Age's Chicago Bureau this afternoon thought the 100-proof, sugary-sweet booze was a touch too sweet for the corridors of power. "Its girl bourbon," said Emily York, Ad Age's food reporter and, as a native Kentuckian, default Bourbon expert.

Nevertheless, the military following appears to be legit, and the Air Force band Dos Gringos -- started by a pair of Iraq war veterans in 2003 -- immortalized it in a song, describing it as "something in between Lysol and alcohol with a touch of gasoline."

Sounds promising, but a little far afield from the Crown Royal boilermaker that allegedly inspired it, no? "It's all BS," said Brian Sudano, a veteran beverage marketing consultant. "Anytime you get free publicity, you try to exploit it. And that's what this is."

Asked why the company wasn't using the "watershed" moment to promote Crown Royal, the brand it actually involved, the spokesman noted the ink that had already been spilled over it: "Well, you all are doing that for us."
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