American consumers have recently been getting an extra shot of
alcoholic spirits where they least expect them: in supermarket aisles,
on select television stations and at family-friendly restaurants.
Alcoholic beverage marketers, with the exception of those selling wine
and beer, have long adhered to a self-imposed ban on television
However, over the past 12 months more companies have been following the
lead of Seagram - which ran its first TV ad for Crown Royal Whiskey last
autumn - in testing the limits of those TV restrictions. Seagram
executives have argued that spirits ads should fall under the same
regulations as beer advertising, which is allowed on sports and
entertainment programming as well as in the arenas themselves.
The ban was also breached when local and cable stations broadcast a
dollars 20 million campaign for Kahlua Drinks to Go, a new line of
ready-to-drink cocktails from Hiram Walker’s coffee liqueur brand, which
are only 7 per cent alcohol by volume - comparable with a strong beer.
But one of the more controversial threats to the ban is the increasingly
popular practice of ’co-branding’.
Major liqueur brands such as Kahlua are popping up in brownies, while
Baileys Irish Cream can be found in Haagen-Dazs ice-cream. TGI Friday’s,
meanwhile, reports strong sales of its Jack Daniel’s Grill line of
chicken, ribs, pork and salmon dishes which all feature the brand as a
key cooking ingredient. Advertising for the line, which began in
mid-April, features scenes from a restaurant interior, mixed with the
visual of a sizzling steak and the Jack Daniel’s logo flashing on
screen. Critics, however, say the commercial skirts the decades-long
television ban on spirits brands.
Two broadcast networks, ABC and CBS, refused to air the commercial,
citing the liquor ban, although General Electric’s NBC unit and several
cable television stations saw no conflict. TGI Friday’s, known for its
lively bars and carnival atmosphere, has been downplaying the
controversy. John Gilbert, vice-president of marketing at the restaurant
chain, says he considers the Jack Daniel’s Grill range in keeping with
its heritage of providing excitement to consumers. ’We’ve downplayed the
alcoholic component pretty substantially and focused on the grilled
taste and cooking heritage,’ he points out.
The new line has enabled the chain to expand its centre-plate offerings
with a signature sauce, and do so at a slightly higher price than its
regular grilled dishes, according to Gilbert. And with a global brand
like Jack Daniel’s, he says the concept will also offer considerable
opportunities for export: the grilled entrees have recently surfaced on
TGI Friday’s menus in the UK and Korea.
Brown-Forman of Louisville, Kentucky, the maker of Jack Daniel’s, has
produced several cookbooks featuring the brand in recipes, including a
bread pudding laced with whiskey currently on the menu at the Ground
Round steak chain. But these products have not appeared on television
and not attracted controversy.