Getting Closer to the Sale with Whiskey Influencers

Three Cheers was recently a finalist in the Academy Awards of PR (forgive us, ™ mall cops) – The SABREs – for the year’s top influencer campaign, for our work for Sagamore Spirit Rye. The statue ultimately went to a behemoth snack food conglomerate. But since we were up against a reported 100-plus initial entries, we’re gonna take our modesty hat off for just one minute and talk about the work – and why it matters to bev alc, IMHO.

One of the tenets we preach is longevity: investing in campaigns and equities that can both land results today and generate growing returns over time. We had just that in Share Your Spirit, which ran for three years and shined a light on the backstories of creators who, like Sagamore Spirit, did things their own way. It gave influencers’ fans squarely in the brand’s target a way to get to better know both Sagamore Spirit and people they admired, and Sagamore Spirit license to tell deeper stories about its ethos and products.

The campaign succeeded on all conventional counts: follower growth, engagement and website throughput. Then 2022 rang in with an edict from management to get closer to the sale. We ripped up the playbook and developed Creators Cask, which invited four major alcohol-centric influencers to come to the distillery in Maryland, get to know the brand up close, and the liquid even better. Each had their own thing: one was a full-on whiskey geek, another a brewer with a jones for good rye, a massively followed YouTube mixologist and a whiskey educator.

The trip’s finale came in the aging barn amidst seven differently composed and matured single barrels, where creators tasted from each until consensus was reached on the one barrel that would have widest appeal. The liquid found its way into bottles, dubbed Sagamore Spirit Creators Cask, in time for the critical Q4 selling season – 200-odd bottles signed by each creator and offered to their fans via a third-party fulfillment partner.

The bottles flew, which we had an inkling they would, given the creators involved and their role in marketing them. The bigger win came in where those creators took the campaign. They made it their own, collaborating in ways that went far beyond their SOWs and surprising and delighting not just their fans, but our client too. A big case in point was a launch video they bonused us, produced jointly on the sly by all four, which paid off what they’d been teasing their fans about for months.

What’s the rub for alcohol marketing writ large? It’s about community, and not in just the social media sense of the term. The central truth is that just as great drinks are made to be enjoyed together, it takes more than one person to make great liquid. Told right, it’s a story that will grow on its own and find its audience. And yes, move some bottles and cans too.