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1800 Tequila Taps 'Sopranos' Star

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NEW YORK 1800 Tequila is taking direct aim at Patron and the man behind the trigger is Michael Imperioli from The Sopranos.

Proximo Spirits this week launched a $15 million ad effort behind its 1800 Tequila brand. Imperioli serves as the centerpiece of the brand's "Change the game" TV, print, online and outdoor ads.

The company said Imperioli was chosen to give the brand some attitude as it looks to convince consumers to trade down from the pricier ultra-premium Patron brand. The actor/director says in one ad, "What happened to tequila? These days it's all velvet ropes and posture. I don't know about you, but when I drink it, I really like to kick back and be myself." He then kicks a bottle of Patron off of a table and says sarcastically, "Oops."



"Michael Imperioli represents the 1800 Tequila brand perfectly," said Elwyn Gladstone, vp of marketing for Proximo. "The roles he has played in his acting career have made him an icon within American popular culture. Just like 1800 Tequila, he's not going to be pushed around. He tells it like it is."

1800 Tequila, formerly Cuervo 1800, is looking for an identity separate from its Jose Cuervo roots. The brand is owned and distributed by Proximo while its now distant sibling Jose Cuervo is distributed by spirits giant Diageo. "They've gotten their act together for a brand that was always looked at as the stepchild," said spirits consultant Arthur Shapiro.

This is the first time 1800 has appeared on TV. The ad campaign made its debut last night on ESPN and Comedy Central. Agent16, New York, is the agency. Earlier this year, the tequila became the first spirits brand to sponsor the Los Angeles Lakers.

The investment in this new effort is significantly higher than last year when spending behind 1800 Tequila was only $3.3 million, Nielsen.