Like Mint Juleps and the Kentucky Derby, there’s only one drink tennis fans hanker for each year at the US Open: Grey Goose’s signature cocktail, the Honey Deuce. The beverage has become nearly as symbolic of the tennis tournament as the matches themselves, and this year marked the 15th anniversary of its debut. For Grey Goose, the cocktail serves as an anchor for sponsorship activations and hospitality experiences each year at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. And with more than one million Honey Deuce cocktails sold at the tournament to date, the brand isn’t slowing its roll any time soon. To find out more about the evolution of Grey Goose’s US Open sponsorship strategy, we tapped Aleco Azqueta, vp-marketing at Grey Goose, North America, for his insights.
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Event Marketer: Why is the US Open an effective platform for engaging consumers?
Aleco Azqueta: For the past 17 years, Grey Goose has been a proud sponsor of the US Open, and it has grown to become one of the brand’s largest, most exciting moments each year. Thousands of people flock to Queens every summer to attend the tournament, and thousands more view from around the world, giving the brand global visibility. Being able to pair such a popular signature cocktail with a major, beloved sporting event creates a common platform for the brand and the tournament to engage with consumers.
For the first decade or so, our primary avenue to engage consumers was on-site at the stadium. Over the years, however, we’ve been able to expand our reach and meet fans at several different touchpoints, including on-premise, e-commerce and social media. Grey Goose works with local bars in New York City and the Hamptons to feature the Honey Deuce during the US Open, and we host watch parties at partner accounts across the country for fans unable to watch the games live from New York… We’re excited to continue supporting fans with thoughtful and engaging offerings.
EM: How do you keep your sponsorship experiences fresh year after year?
AA: Though the Honey Deuce has been served at every US Open for the last 15 years, we have come up with new ways to keep the partnership fresh. For example, we introduced the Frozen Honey Deuce in 2018 to help fans keep cool during the tournament’s hottest matches. The following year, we released our first-ever, limited-edition US Open bottle in partnership with the USTA. We also launched the first-ever Honey Deuce Cocktail Kit in 2020 to ensure fans could still cheer with a Honey Deuce in hand while COVID-19 kept the tournament closed to spectators. Further, to expand our digital ecosystem, we continue to tap our influencer partners to share their US Open Honey Deuce experiences in new and exciting ways, and find new ways to amplify it all on social.
EM: What did this year’s strategy entail?
AA: Our partnership is multi-faceted, with activations that serve not only those in stadium but also all the tennis fans watching from home in a range of ways. First and foremost, we once again served the Honey Deuce at food and drink stands across the stadium, as well as at the Frozen Honey Deuce in the Food Village. We were happy to celebrate the Honey Deuce’s 15th anniversary by welcoming friends of the brand back to our home suite in the stadium.
For those unable to make it to Queens, we brought back the Honey Deuce Cocktail Kit to help fans at home recreate the courtside energy. This year, the kit came equipped with everything you need to mix the iconic cocktail—Grey Goose vodka, fresh lemonade and raspberry liqueur, with tennis-inspired honeydew melon balls for garnish and the official 2021 US Open commemorative cups. The kit was available for delivery throughout the tournament across 40 key markets, with one-hour delivery in Chicago, New York City and Miami.
EM: COVID has made it more important than ever to engage both live and virtual audiences. What has been your approach?
AA: We’ve always had a combination of in-person and e-commerce activations as a part of our marketing mix, but last year certainly highlighted the importance of doing so. Since guests were not allowed at the stadium during last year’s US Open, it was our priority to ensure we could still reach all the fans who were cheering from home. Developing the Honey Deuce Cocktail Kits brought a previously exclusive in-person experience to fans everywhere. Even though the stadium was again operating at full capacity, we knew not all consumers were willing or able to attend in-person, so we wanted to ensure that there were still options for those watching from home. This is always our goal: to meet consumers where they’re at to give them a premium Grey Goose experience.
EM: Why is experiential an important part of your overall marketing mix?
AA: Experiential marketing is a great strategy to connect with consumers in out-of-the-box ways that they not only appreciate, but are excited about. We found that providing an immersive, 360 experience builds trust with fans and also keeps them excited for future product launches and activations. We missed interacting with consumers in this capacity during the pandemic, so we’re very excited to bring experiential activations back into our mix.
EM: Let’s look ahead. Any experiential trends coming down the pike that you’re excited about?
AA: Definitely! One trend we’ve seen growing over the past year is virtual activations. Even though many parts of society are reopened since the pandemic, we’ve found that virtual events are still a relevant and exciting way to engage with consumers all across the world. For example, we saw massive success with our “IN BLOOM, BY SZA” virtual concert last July to launch Grey Goose Essences, our new line of fruit-and botanical-infused vodkas. It was the brand’s biggest launch since Grey Goose original, so it was imperative that we introduced it to the world with an equally big splash. The concert was broadcast across multiple social platforms, garnering a 16.4 million reach and giving us a platform to connect to new fans without physical barriers. We’re eager to continue exploring this trend for future events and launches.