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These aren't the best of days in the spirits industry. Total purchases were down 2.5% last year, and only two of the top 10 brands didn't lose volume.

Then there's the No. 11 brand, Heublein's Jose Cuervo tequila and, importantly, its extensions.

Last year, the main Cuervo tequila brands grew 5% to 2.2 million cases, according to Impact. The low-alcohol Jose Cuervo margaritas grew 30.4% to 1.2 million cases, while Cuervo margarita mix grew to 1 million cases.

Alan Weber, VP-marketing for Heublein's Ralph A. Hart division, attributes some of the increase to the growing popularity of Mexican restaurants in the East. But it's also due to the brand image he helped create.

Since 1988, Mr. Weber, 38, has worked to give the brand a fun image-the "Jose Cuervo primo drinko" theme from Grybauskas Beatrice, New York. He's used it on all brand extensions and an extensive event-marketing program.

Steve Goldstein, VP-PR and event marketing, and Bobbie Parisi, brand manager on the Cuervo base brand, have played major roles in carrying out the marketing plan.

"We have been consistent in our marketing approach, developing a unique personality, fun and sociability consistent with an active outdoor lifestyle," says Mr. Weber.

Cuervo officials admit to spending "several million" in event marketing and claim to be one of the liquor industry's leaders in that arena. Cuervo sponsors professional and amateur beach volleyball contests, and tours that play both during the summer and in fun winter exhibitions at ski resorts.

It also ties events into local retail and bar promotions, and does promotions around Mexican Independence Day.

"Our first goal is to bring in new consumers through products and advertising," says Mr. Weber, "then try to take an active approach to trading them up" the Cuervo brand ladder.

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