Southern Comfort Ends Its Global Relationship with Wieden + Kennedy

By Erik Oster 

Wieden+Kennedy and Southern Comofort have ended their relationship, following the whiskey brand’s sale by parent company Brown-Forman, AdAge reports.

Brown-Forman sold the struggling brand to privately held Sazerac, which also owns Fireball cinnamon whisky and Buffalo Trace whiskey, along with liquor brand Tuaca, for a reported $542.4 million. W+K still handles Brown-Forman’s Finlandia vodka, Maximus vodka and Chambord liqueur brands out of its London office.

W+K won the Southern Comofort account following a 2012 review, mostly running the account out of its New York office, although W+K London produced some U.K. work for the brand. The agency created the popular “Whatever’s Comfortable” campaign for the brand, but Southern Comfort continued to see a steady decline in sales. Brown-Forman cut media spending on the brand from around $13 million in 2014 to approximately $135,400 last year, according to Kantar Media. Media spending on the brand is not likely to increase with its new owners either, as Sazerac is known to eschew advertising in favor of other marketing methods. According to Kantar Media, the company spent $1.7 million on measured media in 2015. 


Brown-Forman chief financial officer Jane Morreau told AdAge that “the competitive landscape in flavored whiskey has heated up over the last few years, including some of our own brand introductions such as Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire and Honey. And this competition has been eroding Southern Comfort’s leading share. So over the last few years, we have allocated additional time, focus and dollars toward reinvigorating the brand with limited success and reached the conclusion that we should sell the brand and re-dedicate resources to brands that we believe have greater long-term growth prospects.”

For W+K, the loss follows closely on the heels of W+K Portland and FCA parting ways last week. The agency, no doubt, hopes to bounce back as quickly as it did last year when it lost the global Heineken account and picked up Bud Light just weeks later.