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How Campari Brands Hijacked Mindshare at the Tales of the Cocktail Conference

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At Campari Academy, attendees could line up a mentor session with an industry leader.

From the Super Bowl to the Oscars, nearly every industry has a tentpole event that shines a spotlight on the best in the biz. Within the spirits industry, that occasion is New Orleans-based Tales of the Cocktail (TOTC). Over the summer, the global conference made its post-pandemic return to live with a range of educational sessions, tastings, networking experiences, activations and awards programming built for the most influential operators in the business. For Campari, the event was a critical opportunity to maintain its seat at the “big table” and, after a three-year hiatus, not just be present at the world-renowned trade gathering, but omnipresent.

Campari had various partner bar teams, entertainment acts and special guest appearances on tap across its activating brands throughout the week, all designed to help showcase the “quality and utility” of its products, particularly among a highly influential segment of TOTC attendees: bartenders.

“We want to speak to this audience authentically and inspire them with our drinks because we want those people to go back home to wherever they’re from and work with our brands, innovate with our brands, be creative with our brands and advocate on behalf of our brands,” says Steve Chasen, vp-channel and customer marketing at Campari America. “For me, there is no better investment than to make a personal, physical connection between an influencer and your product directly.”

espolon-cocktail-fights_teaserMore B-to-B Spirits Tactics:

Following tradition, Campari kicked off its Tales of the Cocktail presence by sponsoring the 9th annual Ode to the Bowl bowling tournament, held the Sunday before the conference began. An apt “school reunion” theme was woven throughout the 1,000-person event, where the brand’s entire portfolio was available to try, including a dedicated shot bar where plenty of ceremonial toasts were made.

During the week, Campari brands lured in TOTC attendees with experiences built for education and engagement. At Caffé Campari, visitors enjoyed live jazz, signature Aperitivo-style cocktails, photo ops and Italian-inspired design elements alluding to the city of Milan, where Campari was founded. At a Bourbon & Brass event, Wild Turkey and the Preservation Hall Jazz came together for an evening of whiskey cocktail sipping, intimate performances by some of New Orleans’ most iconic artists and opportunities to taste rare past whiskies from Wild Turkey’s “Vault.” And at the annual Speed Rack all-female, high-speed bartending competition, representatives from Aperol and Campari (the aperitif itself) competed.

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At the Sabores de Mexico event, high-profile partners like Julio Bermejo, inventor of the Tommy’s Margarita, slung cocktails.

The brand also brought its Campari Academy bartender education platform to life, inviting participants to discover the origins of bar culture, celebrate how it has evolved over the years and explore the ways the spirits community is connected, with an emphasis on the essential role that bartenders play within the ecosystem. A highlight of the experience was an opportunity for attendees to sit down for a one-on-one mentor session with one of eight industry leaders from different parts of the spirits business, an element the brand considered “very different and high-touch,” says Chasen.

In addition, a two-day Sabores de Mexico event dedicated to Campari’s Mexican spirits portfolio, which is seeing rapid growth, celebrated the cultures behind the Espolòn, Montelobos and Ancho Reyes brands. Campari partnered with a number of renowned industry insiders on the program, including bartenders from Katana Kitten, recently voted the most badass bar in the country, and Mexico City’s Licorería Limantour, as well as Julio Bermejo, inventor of the Tommy’s Margarita. The elite bar teams were on hand whipping up cocktails while live music played. Closing out the week was a high-octane Heart of Jamaica rum event featuring Jamaican music, food, cocktails, dance performances and swag.

“We’re in a relationship business, a people business, but also a very tactile business,” says Chasen. “Serving someone something is a very personal act and making someone a drink and being able to do that face-to-face is at the heart of the trade side of the business, the hospitality side of the business. So for us, experiential is the most impactful method. And why do I say any of this? Not because it’s something to feel good about. I say it because it’s good business.” Agency: SoHo Experiential.

More Scenes from Campari’s Tales of the Cocktail Events:

Photo credit: Shawn Campbell, Josh Brasted

Kait Shea
Posted by Kait Shea

Kait joined EM in 2015 and today enjoys her role as senior editor, digital content. When she’s not in reporter mode, rocking mermaid pants at Comic-Con or running laps at MWC Barcelona, you can find her at home listening to music.
View all articles by Kait Shea →

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