Bulleit’s New Ad Reminds Us That Bartenders Have Mad Skills—and Are Still Out of Work

Diageo-owned brand is donating $250,000 to support service industry workers

man filling motorcycle at gas station
Bulleit's new spot features the bartenders the brand's new campaign aims to support. Bulleit

After the initial shock of lockdown, one of the early trends among alcohol brands was an outpouring of support for bartenders and service industry workers—people who were hit especially hard by the closure of bars and restaurants.

But as often happens, that kind of support slowed down as the months dragged on. There are still to-go orders being made, and some regions have allowed partial reopening, but the reality for most bartenders is that things are far from normal—and won’t be for quite some time.

“Part of our purpose is to continue to support the people who support us through this—for the long term,” said Diageo’s svp of North American whiskeys, Sophie Kelly. One way Bulleit can do that, she added, is through marketing.

“This is an industry that is in uncharted territory,” Kelly said. And since that’s not likely to change for as long as another year, she said, it’s important for Bulleit to not only raise awareness among communities that can help industry workers now, but also create platforms that allow bartenders to connect with consumers and use their skills.

With that in mind, Bulleit’s new spot stars real bartenders demonstrating their expertise through everyday tasks like tossing a soda to a friend, filling up with gas or stirring a cup of tea. Directed by the The End of the F***ing World’s Lucy Forbes, the spot aims to remind people that many hospitality workers are still away from their trade with playful, entertaining scenes that showcase the talent bartending requires.

“The reality is, ours is an industry that lost more than 700,000 jobs almost overnight,” said Aaron Gregory Smith, executive director of the United States Bartenders’ Guild and USBG National Charity Foundation. The USBG has distributed more than 30,000 need-based grants of $150-$500 to bartenders, bar backs and cocktail servers, but things remain tough.

“While largest incoming donations have slowed with time, our industry is nothing if not resilient and overflowing with clever, creative people who are finding new ways to generate donation funds to help in a time of extraordinary need,” said Smith.

The spot also announces the new Bulleit Frontier Fund for bartenders, which the brand is launching with a $250,000 initial donation. The money will go toward several organizations and fundraisers to support bartenders across North America, including the the United States Bartenders Guild, Another Round, Another Rally and Southern Smoke Foundation.

When you sit down at a bar, connect with a bartender and have a cocktail created for you as you watch, “there’s always a sense of magic and entertainment,” Kelly said. “There’s a real skill in what they do. So what was really important to us was to get that skill out there in a way that highlighted that we want to get our bartenders back pouring, and here’s how we’re going to support them to do that.”

Bulleit is also announcing a partnership with Sourced Craft Cocktails, an Austin, Texas-based company that offers to-go cocktails crafted by expert mixologists, and a #BulleitBarSkills content series on Instagram. The brand is also continuing its educational platform, Frontier Bartender Labs, which will feature new programming this fall that’s customized for the current moment.

Diageo previously committed more than $4.5 million to support the hospitality industry during the Covid-19 pandemic.

@klundster kathryn.lundstrom@adweek.com Kathryn Lundstrom is Adweek's breaking news reporter based in Austin.