Tequila Avion Spoofs S&M To Make A Point

Avion-tequila-BTequila Avión’s first television ad, being launched on ESPN on May 4, is, well … bound to get attention, given its playful but decidedly naughty, S&M-themed approach.

The spot shows a woman -- played by actress Katie Savoy (who made her bikini-clad debut in a Verizon Wireless campaign) – wowing her man by showing up at his loft garbed from head to toe in black leather. After pouring some melted wax from a candle, she proceeds to blindfold him (his response: “Do we need a safe word?”). Ultimately, however, she just lets him sniff a glass of Tequila Avión Silver, takes a sip herself, and exits, noting: “That’ll do for now.”

On-screen title copy during the spot announces the tagline: “Pain has its place … just not in tequila.” Accompanying copy for the bottle shot at the end: “Choose pleasure.” 

The spot, from agency Walton Isaacson, will be aired in 60-, 30- and 15-second versions on national and local networks. 

“When people think of tequila, they tend to think of pain -- because when they drink most tequilas, there’s that harsh, biting sensation that more often than not registers on their faces,” says Avión president Jenna Fagnan, formerly a VP at LVMH’s TAG Heuer and business director for Dom Perignon. “This ad turns that perception on its head through the combination of its scenario and tagline, making the point that Avión is a tequila that delivers a smooth, delicious experience.” 

The ad also fits with Avión’s “irreverent” brand personality, and is designed to appeal to both men and women, she says. (Women represent half of tequila drinkers, in no small part because of the margarita’s continuing reign as America’s most popular cocktail.)

Fagnan proudly points out that the ultra-premium Avión brand, launched in the U.S. in July 2010, cleaned up at the recent 2012 San Francisco World Spirits Competition (which has high industry cred because of its blind taste-test judging). Tequila Avión won both the “World’s Best Tequila” and “Best White Spirit” awards, while the brand’s other two varieties or expressions, Avión Anejo and Reposado, respectively picked up gold and silver medals. 

All three varieties were launched simultaneously, after a lengthy development process by Ken Austin, chairman of Avión Tequila LLC, a former Seagram’s exec and a tequila aficionado. The brand uses agave sourced from Mexico’s best agave-growing highlands, and is distilled by expert agave growers using a proprietary process, notes Fagnan.  

The timing of the launch of the Avión company by Austin and Kenny Dichter (previously partners in founding the Marquis Jet private aviation company), with Fagnan on board as president (backed by an initial $5.95 million in equity from 71 seed investors), was dead-on. 

Tequila dollar sales have seen 40% growth over the past six years. The overall category’s sales grew nearly 4% in 2011, and premium tequila sales jumped more than 11% in 2011, points out Fagnan. Initially launched in California and New York, the brand’s distribution expanded rapidly, and in July 2011, Avión inked a global distribution deal with Pernod Ricard (now a minority owner). Currently, it’s distributed in all 50 states, plus Canada, according to Fagnan.

By happenstance, the brand gained its widest initial awareness through its exposure on HBO’s “Entourage.” HBO doesn’t allow paid product placements, but the brand’s cost-free inclusion came about because of Dichter’s long friendship with the series’ originator. The exposure proved a somewhat mixed blessing, because it led many consumers to assume that the brand was made up for the series, rather than a real tequila brand.

But that misperception has been overcome, says Fagnan, who reports that the brand has employed all of the usual trade- and retail-oriented promotion/sampling methods common to spirits, along with awareness-building efforts including appearances at events where a tequila brand’s presence is “unexpected”; flying banners over beach areas (“avion” means “airplane” in both Spanish and French); and Austin’s frequent exposure on television and other media as a tequila expert. 

Another new twist: On May 4 and 5, Delta Airlines will be offering long-haul-flight passengers free margaritas made with Avión, and thereafter, will sell the custom-made drinks on its flights, reports Fagnan.

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