Jack Daniel's Boosts Marketing Spending as It Marks 150 Years

Anniversary Activities Include Special Edition Bottles, Events

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Jack Daniel's 150th Distillery Anniversary 3x2
Jack Daniel's 150th Distillery Anniversary 3x2 Credit: Jack Daniel's TN Whiskey/YouTube

Jack Daniel's is boosting media spending and rolling out several big events as it celebrates its 150th anniversary and status as America's oldest distillery, Brown-Forman executives said Wednesday.

The whiskey brand will erect "pop-up distillery experiences" in several major metro markets and introduce limited-edition products, including a Jack Daniel's 150th anniversary bottle, executives said on an earnings call Wednesday. One special edition bottle will be priced around $100, executives said.

"Against a competitive backdrop where there's everything from craft whiskeys and bourbons out there, to some of these waves and trends where big is bad and small is cool … I just feel like this is a really important opportunity for Jack Daniel's to tell its authentic story in really, really compelling ways, which will go way beyond calendar 2016," Brown-Forman CEO Paul Varga said on the earnings call. "It is an inflection point for the brand to remind everybody that it's one of the most special brands of any kind in this industry."

Globally, the campaign will include a "Jack Daniel's Barrel Hunt" in over 50 countries, executives said. A spokesman described the event as a digital scavenger hunt in which drinkers will be given clues online about where to find empty whiskey barrels hidden in the real world. The barrels -- which are considered a collector's item -- will include prizes such as a Jack Daniel's bar kit, he said. In the U.S. the brand is not allowed to give away whiskey via the event because of regulations, but free whiskey might be made available in markets where it is allowed, the spokesman said. In the U.S, five barrels will be given away, he said.

Internally, Brown-Forman is calling this year's marketing boost the "Jack Attack." No new TV ads are planned in the U.S. as part of the anniversary campaign, according to the spokesman. But he confirmed the brand would increase media spending although he declined to say by how much. The Jack Daniel's brand family got $24.5 million in measured media support last year, according to Kantar Media.

A TV commercial airing now poses this question: "If you celebrate a 25th anniversary with silver, and a 50th with gold, what do you celebrate 150 years with? Well, in this case, whiskey." The ad began airing in March, according to ispot.tv. Jack Daniel's creative agency is Arnold.

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"Across a lot of companies in a lot of categories it's hard out there right now for established brands," Mr. Varga said. "We've largely continued to be successful against that backdrop. But this gives us a really unique opportunity to tell our story. It's a story that should fit beautifully with why people are choosing American whiskeys today."

The Lynchburg distillery was established in 1866. "We've seen two world wars, a less than Great Depression and the town of Lynchburg burned down," states a promotional video posted on the brand's web site.

Underlying net sales for the Jack Daniel's brand family grew 6% in Brown-Forman's 2016 fiscal year, which ended April 30, the company reported.

The core Jack Daniel's black label offering remains the top-selling U.S. whiskey brand with 10.4% dollar share as of April 17, according to IRI, which does not include bar sales.. In second was Fireball cinnamon whisky at 7.7% share. The brand, owned by privately held Sazerac, had sales growth of 15.6% in the 52 weeks ending April 17, according to IRI.

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