Diageo Mounts Holiday Blitz For Johnnie Walker Blue

Taking a page from luxury marketers, Diageo is toasting the art world this holiday season with a multimillion-dollar campaign for Johnnie Walker Blue, its super-premium, single-malt Scotch.

While making a major investment in the appeal of high-end art, Diageo's effort is also designed also to reach the common man by having two museums throw open their doors to everyone one night this week--for free.

"This is really a 360. It touches so many points," said Laura Peet, a spokesperson for Diageo.

The effort appears to be the right campaign at the right time, since super premium is driving Scotch sales, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. From 2002 to 2005, super premium volume sales were up 19.3 percent, while volume sales of blended Scotch rose just 3.2 percent, said spokesperson Shawn Kelley.

At the current campaign's core is the first in a series of art executions featuring the $200-per-bottle Johnnie Walker Blue Label. The contemporary art--part photography and part digital imaging and created by two leading British artists--is taglined "For those who know what to look for." It will be used in an integrated campaign consisting of print and out-of-home ads, public relations, point-of-sale, and merchandising. Print will run in such publications as The New York Times, GQ, Esquire and Travel & Leisure.



"We have tripled the spend for the holiday season, which accounts for 40 percent of Scotch sales," said Diageo's Peet, declining to provide specifics.

"Johnnie Walker is making a concerted effort ... to make it less a beverage and more of a luxury item of choice," said Patricia Pao, CEO of the Pao Principle, a New York-based marketing consultancy specializing in the luxury goods, beauty, and retail industries.

Pao likened the effort to luxury handbag maker Louis Vuitton turning over its holiday windows in 350 stores worldwide to a special contemporary art project created by a Danish artist. "As handbags are to women, Scotch is to men," Pao said.

Additional marketing surrounding the initiative includes:

  • Subsidized free evening entry this week to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Miami and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York

  • Johnnie Walker Blue Label Traveling Art Gallery appearances in several locations throughout New York through Thursday

  • Unopened bottle engraving at a kiosk in Time Warner Center through Jan. 4

  • An exclusive party in Los Angeles, where the cast of NBC's "Scrubs" will decorate blue hospital scrubs to be auctioned off on eBay to raise funds for the New Orleans Museum of Art's Katrina Fund. The auction runs from Nov. 28 to Dec. 6.
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