Diageo’s Whiskey Brands Tap Into Their Past for Campaigns Supporting Bartenders

Bulleit praises 'new drinking buddies,' Crown Royal hosts virtual concerts

Diageo's Bulleit and Crown Royal have switched gears since stay-at-home orders changed drinking habits, but in ways that stay true to the respective brands. Diageo

As has been well-documented in memes (and actual research), people are drinking more at home during quarantine. While that might mitigate losses for alcohol brands, it doesn’t do much for their partners in the service industry, or for consumers who are out of work as a result of Covid-19.

With that in mind, many brands have launched initiatives to support bartenders, industry partners and consumers who are out of work during lockdown. And for Diageo-owned Bulleit Bourbon and Crown Royal, those projects work best when they stay true to each brand’s respective identity.

Bulleit has long been seen as a bartender’s whiskey, said Diageo’s svp of North American whiskey, Sophie Kelly. It’s a great value bourbon that has always been on the “frontier of culture,” she said, and “very geared toward trade and on-premise.”

So in thinking about Bulleit’s fan base, the brand worked with Anomaly to develop a sweet, light-hearted spot that acknowledges the connection many of us are missing out on with bars shuttered.

“We all miss seeing our mates for a drink,” Kelly said. The goal of the spot, which highlights one Bulleit drinker’s new drinking buddies (all of which are inanimate objects in his apartment), is “just to give people a smile right now and provide some entertainment,” she said.

In addition to the spot, Bulleit created an Instagram series of mixology tutorials featuring industry professionals. The brand debuted the first how-to video on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, showcasing Los Angeles’ Broken Shaker bar manager Christine Wiseman, who explains how to make a “Float Your Oats” cocktail. It’s part of a broader Diageo campaign to support the United States Bartenders’ Guild with $1 for every cocktail photo shared on social media with the hashtags #TipsFromHome and #DiageoDonation.

But Crown Royal has a much different brand identity. Packaged in its iconic purple velvet bag, former owner Seagram’s introduced the smooth-drinking spirit in 1939 as a way to honor the British monarchs who visited Canada that year. Now, it’s often purchased as a gift item, according to Kelly. The brand’s history inspired Crown Royal to create an initiative around the idea of “inspiring generosity,” she said, since that’s been a core part of the brand from the beginning.

Partnering with artists and celebrities like Chris and Kyle Long, Locash, Drumma Boy, RaeLynn, Chris Lane and Anthony Ramos, Crown Royal organized Generosity Hours, where fans could tune in once a week to hear from artists. Crown Royal has also committed to donate a dollar, up to $400,000, to the USBG for every social media post with the hashtag #GenerosityHour.

Diageo’s whiskey brands joined a number of alcohol brands looking for ways to support their industry partners now—Bud Light and Reyka Vodka are among the brands to help out—launching initiatives to support the restaurants and bars that have had to close under lockdown through donations or promotions.

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