Campaigns: Event Marketing - Tabasco cures a major headache

Taking advantage of a date that comes once every thousand years, McIlhenny Co., maker of the ubiquitous Tabasco brand pepper sauce, produced the world’s largest Bloody Mary for what was billed as the world’s largest hangover venue, New Year’s Day in New Orleans.

Taking advantage of a date that comes once every thousand years, McIlhenny Co., maker of the ubiquitous Tabasco brand pepper sauce, produced the world’s largest Bloody Mary for what was billed as the world’s largest hangover venue, New Year’s Day in New Orleans.

Taking advantage of a date that comes once every thousand years,

McIlhenny Co., maker of the ubiquitous Tabasco brand pepper sauce,

produced the world’s largest Bloody Mary for what was billed as the

world’s largest hangover venue, New Year’s Day in New Orleans.



Despite the media’s preoccupation with all things Y2K, ’Tabasco’s

Millennium Mary: The World’s Largest Bloody Mary’ counted on the annual

hunger for feature pieces dealing with hangover remedies - and as a

result got the brand portrayed as ’fun but slightly irreverent.’





Strategy



The original idea was to have the event right after Mardi Gras. ’But

with it being Ash Wednesday and New Orleans being a very devout, if

libertine, city, we decided that wasn’t the time to do it,’ says Hunter

& Associates VP Jonathan Lyon.



Another switch was with the venue: the original location fell through -

almost literally - when the city of New Orleans determined that the

site, a hollow pier, wouldn’t support the weight of the filled

glass.



So the event was moved to Latrobe Park in the French Quarter.



The agency also had to deal with the tricky task of timing its jump into

the news cycle to avoid being drowned out by the Christmas holiday. If

it struck too soon, explains Hunter senior account executive Dakkan

Abbe, the campaign could have been lost in the sea of e-retailing

stories.





Tactics



Arranging for the production of a clear-acrylic, 7,500-pound Bloody Mary

glass proved difficult, forcing the agency to go through several

manufacturers who, fearing lawsuits if the glass broke, declined to make

it. A Maryland company finally signed on.



On December 21, Hunter sent out 50 ’Millennial Hangover Kits’ to

journalists.



Designed like a first-aid kit, it included Bloody Mary mix and a

mini-bottle of Finlandia vodka, which cooperated in the promotion. In

addition to sending out alerts to major network morning shows, national

newspapers and magazines, Abbe and Lyon contacted more than 300 major

daily newspapers.



On a sunny and warm New Year’s morning, with a thousand gallons of

virgin Bloody Mary, eight caterers served a crowd of 3,800 from 10 am to

2 pm, with lines forming around the block.



Four bouncers checked I.D.s (adults were allowed to put vodka in the

Bloody Mary mix taken from the giant glass), and crowds of woozy New

Orleans residents and tourists drank, danced and scooped up 200 free

T-shirts while listening to a local Dixieland jazz band.





Results



In the days before January 1, the event got major hits in USA Today and

on CNN Headline News as well as significant radio coverage. On New

Year’s Eve, there were mentions of the campaign - and the brand - on

CBS’ Craig Kilborn Show and Fox News. And shortly before midnight, New

Orleans time, ABC anchor Peter Jennings mentioned the event as well as

the Tabasco brand, says Abbe, with a potential for 150 million

impressions. On New Year’s Day, the Associated Press published a story

on the event. There were a total of 107 individual broadcasts of network

feeds and b-roll on local, national and cable news. Hunter has yet to

receive results of newspaper coverage.



Though they waited until December 21 to publicize the event, even more

crucial than timing was luck; the campaign benefited from the fact that

there were no significant Y2K-related disruptions to divert media

attention.



’Up until we went there was really too much Y2K hysteria,’ says

Lyon.



’Suddenly, everyone turned to what was going on with New Year’s Eve

parties.’





Future



Though he thinks the effort was a success, McIlhenny company president

Paul McIlhenny couldn’t think of another occasion that would warrant

such a one-of-a-kind event. He adds: ’I had not heard in recent memory

of a more appropriate topical promotion, thinking about everyone

celebrating the last New Year’s Eve of the century, and thereby

incurring the biggest hangover of all time.’



Client: McIlhenny Co. (Avery Island, LA)

PR Team: Hunter & Associates (New York)

Campaign: Tabasco’s Millennium Mary: The World’s Largest Bloody Mary

Time Frame: August 1999 to January 1, 2000

Budget: dollars 200,000



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