Brown-Forman zooms ahead with high-impact activations & premium+ brands

By Faye Bartle |

Brown-Forman in Cannes 2023

Visitors to the Brown-Forman booth in Cannes could not miss the McLaren F1 racing car highlighting the partnership between Jack Daniel’s and McLaren Racing.

American-owned spirits and wine company Brown-Forman is putting the pedal to the mettle in travel retail with impactful new product launches, experience-led activations and strategic updates to its brand portfolio.  

At the TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes last month, a stand-out feature on Brown-Forman’s stand in the Beach Village was the eye-catching McLaren F1 racing car.

This was first unveiled in global travel retail (GTR) at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in August for the Jack Daniel’s & McLaren F1 Team pop-up activation in partnership with Gebr. Heinemann.

Running for one month, the high-impact promotion celebrated Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey becoming an official partner of the McLaren Formula 1 Team in 2023, in a multi-year partnership agreement.

The replica show car is the ultimate draw card for the associated limited-time-offer (LTO) bottle featuring McLaren’s papaya colourway and a bespoke label and packaging honouring the brands’ respective founders, Bruce McLaren and Jack Daniel.

Bringing the Jack Daniel’s brand to life in travel retail through this thrilling showcase has generated “enthusiasm and engagement from millions of travellers”, said Stéphane Morizet, Marketing Director GTR, Brown-Forman, when TRBusiness met with him in Cannes. And there’s so much more to come.

The partnership will give rise to one limited edition a year, he said, with the next due soon (watch this space for details).

Brown-Forman in Cannes 2023

The Brown-Dorman team celebrate on the booth in Cannes.

Jack Daniel’s American Single Malt is also taking a turn in the spotlight in the channel.

A GTR exclusive, it sits in the super premium plus range, with a distinctly different taste to the core varieties.

“From a smell and flavour perspective, you get the single malt profile, but there is a twist to it,” said Morizet.

“There are deeper notes, and you have Oloroso sherry cask flavours, vanilla, cream, dark chocolate and, after a few sips, it continues to evolve.”

The liquid is a major milestone in the history of the brand. It’s made from 100% malted barley and matured in new, charred American white oak barrels for at least four years and then finished for an additional two years in Spanish Oloroso sherry casks before being bottled at cask proof.

The expression has been “embraced” by travel retailers, says Brown-Forman, which is rolling out 40 associated activations of different scales around the world, with the biggest at London’s Heathrow and Singapore Changi Airport will a “full set-up” to welcome travellers, including gifting stations.

It’s expected to reach a total of 30 million travellers and facilitate 60,000 tastings as a result.

Woodford Reserve promotion satisfies the senses

The Woodford Reserve brand is also making waves by winning the consumer-voted Travel Retail Award for the Sensory Lounge concept in the category for Best Retailer & Supplier Promotion 2023,
sponsored by E. Gluck.

The Woodford Reserve Sensory Lounge was named the Winner in the category for Best Retailer & Supplier Promotion 2023,
sponsored by E.Gluck, at the consumer-voted Travel Retail Awards, which took place in Cannes on 3 October. 

Created to take travellers on a sensory journey with exclusive tastings, gifts with purchase (GWPs) and more, the Woodford Reserve Sensory Lounge first burst onto the scene in partnership with Extime Duty Free Paris and Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris, as well as with DFS and JFK Terminal 4 in New York.

To date, it has reached over two million international travellers, achieved triple-digit sales growth and boosted awareness of the brand, reports Brown-Forman.

During Cannes, the team revealed that the promotion was on its way to Istanbul Airport, going live on 9 October for three months.

For this, Brown-Forman has teamed up with a local culinary academy to create four different chocolates to highlight the flavour notes in the liquid.

November is ‘old fashioned’ month and, drawing on the expertise of the local Woodford teams, consumers are being given guides on where to find the best old fashioned cocktails in the destination they are travelling to.

“We know that travellers are looking for immersive experiences, they want to learn and to be entertained and to discover new things – that’s what this is about,” said Morizet.

It demonstrates how the brand is moving towards creating an entirely elevated experience for travelling consumers.

Brown-Forman in Cannes 2023

The Woodford Reserve Sensory Lounge provides an immersive experience for travelling consumers.

In select locations, samples can be taken in branded recycled plastic glasses that travellers can keep as gifts.

The Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is also available with premium embossed labels featuring illustrations of key destinations.

In line with Brown-Forman GTR’s sustainability commitments, all the furniture and materials, including the washable Govino tableware, that feature in the Woodford Reserve Sensory Lounge are reusable.

From Venezuela to GTR: Diplomático Rum

Alongside its portfolio of powerful American whiskeys, Brown-Forman has been busy extending its footprint into other dark spirits over the past few years and now it has a hand in the super premium plus rum category with Diplomático Rum.

The company completed its acquisition of the Venezuelan brand and related assets from Destillers United Group in Spain in January, taking over its ageing, bottling and shipping production facility in Panama.

The signature classic of the range is the Reserva Exclusiva, a super-premium sipping rum with aromas of orange peel, toffee and liquorice for a smooth taste.

You can enjoy it neat (no ice recommended) or in cocktails such as an old fashioned.

It’s a shrewd move considering premium plus rum volumes are expected to climb by a CAGR of +6% between 2021 and 2026, as forecast by IWSR.

“It’s the number two premium plus rum by volume in GTR,” said Morizet. “So that’s our challenge, to make it number one in the channel – challenge accepted.”

Transporting travellers to the Mediterranean with Gin Mare

Visitors to the Brown-Forman stand in Cannes could also discover the company’s wider super premium spirits GTR portfolio at the three-metre-long bar, or step outdoors onto the terrace to soak up the sea views and enjoy ‘Mediterranean Hour’ with Gin Mare.

Brown-Forman in Cannes 2023

Brown-Forman pans to “globalise” the Gin Mare brand, which is distilled in Barcelona, with the botanicals harvested from Italy, Spain, France and Greece. The original should be garnished with a twist orange and a sprig of rosemary to elevate the profile whereas Capri is best paired with a slice of lemon and a thyme spring – both ideally served with Mediterranean tonic.

This recent addition to Brown-Forman’s portfolio is the fastest growing ultra-premium gin globally for the last five years, according to IWSR data.

The original is characterised by rosemary, basil and thyme whereas Gin Mare Capri has hints of citrus aromas.

It’s different to a London dry gin, where all the botanicals are in the pot still at the time of distillation.

For a distilled gin, like Gin Mare, each of the botanicals are distilled separately and brought together and blended at the end of the process to ensure a consistent balance of flavours.

It’s ideal for targeting consumers looking to trade-up from volume gins, said Brown-Forman, which is looking to “globalise the liquid” by building on its existing fan base in Europe.

Since Cannes, Brown-Forman has made a number of important announcements regarding its brand portfolio, including completing the sale of the Finlandia vodka brand to Coca-Cola HBC AG on 1 November, marking another step in its long-term strategic ambition to premiumise its portfolio through brand innovation, acquisition and divestiture.

More recently, it was revealed that wine group The Duckhorn Portfolio, Inc. will acquire Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards and related brand trademarks. In exchange, Brown-Forman will receive an ownership percentage of approximately 21.5% in The Duckhorn Portfolio and $50 million. The transaction, subject to certain customary closing adjustments and conditions, is expected to close in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2024.

READ MORE: Brown-Forman celebrates Woodford Reserve win amid Cannes showcase

READ MORE: Brown-Forman GTR opens Jack Daniel’s and McLaren F1 pop-up at Schiphol

READ MORE: Alex Prendes ascends to Director GTR Americas role at Brown-Forman


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