SBJ/November 17 - 23, 2003/Marketingsponsorship

Whiskey label stirs the pot with NFL’s tailgaters

When most football fans break out the whiskey at a tailgate party, it is usually either poured into a mixer or sent straight down the gullet in a fiery splash after a frat-like cheer.

The folks at Jack Daniel Distillery, however, want people to know that their whiskey has another purpose within the tailgating scene: as a cooking ingredient.

In August, Nashville public relations firm Dye Van Mol & Lawrence launched the Jack Daniel's Great American Tailgate Party and Tailgate Search, a nationwide tour designed to find the best tailgate teams among pro football fans.

Jack’s back in black at NFL parking lots.

In 16 NFL markets, a 45-foot-long vehicle, equipped with big-screen TVs, DVD players and Internet access, scours the parking lots and fields, judging participants on food and drink preparation and team spirit. Jack Daniel's ambassadors designate a winner in each market, with the overall top tailgater to be crowned in Houston just before the 2004 Super Bowl.

The PR campaign is both national and market-to-market in scope. The targeted media are outlets, including TV, print, radio and Internet, that reach the 21-and-older demographic.

In August, Dye Van Mol launched the campaign via PRNewswire and directly to a select group of feature writers throughout the country. The agency plans for a strong national push at the end of the campaign in January around Super Bowl time, with the winner being announced through a video news release.

Campaign: Launching the nationwide Jack Daniel’s Great American Tailgate Party and Tailgate Search
PR team:
Dye Van Mol & Lawrence:
Mark Day, group director and senior vice president
Heather MacDonald, vice president
Ellen Nelson, vice president
Amanda Henley, account executive
Rob Hoskins, account executive
Andrea Lindsley, account executive
Charlynn Settlage, account executive
Jack Daniel Distillery:
John Hayes, vice president, brand director
Campbell Brown, brand manager
Riley Hedrick, national promotions manager
Campaign time line: Aug. 1, 2003-Jan. 31, 2004

In each of the 16 markets, which include New York, Tampa Bay, San Diego and Chicago, Dye Van Mol targets all local media, with a print emphasis on lifestyle and food editors. In select markets, the agency targets sports and entertainment writers. For television, the focus is on morning shows.

Dye Van Mol has incorporated a variety of interesting PR elements to help get the word out about the campaign.

1. Ambassadors – Dye Van Mol has media-trained a handful of Jack Daniel's ambassadors, who are on site in each market judging the tailgaters as well as meeting with the press. These ambassadors, who include master distiller Jimmy Bedford and Jack Daniel's great-grandniece, Lynne Tolley, serve as the spokespeople for the campaign.

2. Recipes – In each market, the agency not only announces via a press release the arrival of the tour, it also provides the media with recipes involving Jack Daniel's whiskey.

3. Tailgating tips – The agency distributes tailgating tips to the media.

4. Footballs and aprons – For this year's campaign, Dye Van Mol is distributing to the media Jack Daniel's utensils and aprons and custom-designed footballs bearing the Jack Daniel's Tailgate logo.

For each market, the Jack Daniel's ambassadors along with a staffer from the PR firm arrive on Thursday for a Sunday game. The week leading up to the arrival, Dye Van Mol works on setting up media interviews for the ambassadors, which typically take place on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday before the game.

The tailgate search begins Sunday and the trophy is awarded just before kickoff. The media that the agency brings on site on Sunday can assist the ambassadors in the judging if they are so inclined.

After the judging, the PR firm faxes and e-mails the names of the winners to the local markets. Photos of the winners are posted on the Jack Daniel's Web site.

Dye Van Mol plans to announce the big winner on Jan. 31 via a video news release, a press release placed on PRNewsire and customized press releases to media outlets in the hometowns of both finalists.

At press time, the tour has reached seven of the 16 planned markets. Coverage thus far includes The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Sun-Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Tampa Tribune and St. Louis Post-Dispatch, as well as radio and television network affiliates.

Wayne Henninger (whenninger@sportsbusinessjournal.com) is a PR professional and writer in Washington, D.C.

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