MEDIA: LIQUOR BRANDS AND LIFESTYLE - Media Roundup. Magazines mixlifestyle with higher alcohol content

Once restricted to specialist media, liquor brands are now seen as

key components of desirable living, and consequently soak the pages of

lifestyle publications. David Ward looks at some big PR


Even in this economic downturn, alcoholic beverage companies continue to

be major advertisers, and consequently, coverage of liquor brands has

been on a steady rise in recent years. Much of this growth has come in

the lifestyle, entertainment, and women's media outlets.

"We used to be limited to pitching the food and spirits writers," says

Matthew Grahn, account executive with Nike Communications, which

represents Dewar's whiskey. "Now there are a lot more opportunities for


Arguably, the liquor business is one of the most image-conscious

industries around, with alcohol brands all battling to position their

products as key components of a desirable lifestyle. And lately, it's

been the media, especially with the arrival of publications like Maxim,

that has become the arbiter of what constitutes the "good life" for an

entire generation.

"The lifestyle magazines have become huge targets," notes John Liporace,

SVP with New York-based Alan Taylor Communications, which represents the

Jose Cuervo tequila and Malibu rum brands. "And that's because they've

become so specialized. When you pitch them, you know you're reaching a

very specific target of consumers. For example, if you want to reach

20-something males, you better find a way to get into Maxim, Gear, or


The journalists who work at these magazines aren't necessarily

connoisseurs of wine, beer, and spirits. Instead, they cover alcohol in

the same way they may write about the latest car or hot nightspot.

"Particularly the men's magazines are devoting a section to talking

about liquor brands," says Brian Gordon, who as director of Bragman,

Nyman Carafe's New York office, handles Smirnoff Ice as well as

Guinness. "It's now a major part of a man's life - what drink he is

drinking, and what it says about him."

Interestingly, women's media outlets are adopting this same


After years of shying away from alcohol coverage, magazines such as

Cosmopolitan, Vogue, and others are now covering liquor brands with the

same focus they devote to fashion accessories.

Women and booze

Aaron Brost, PR manager for Jim Beam Brands' DeKuyper Cordials division,

says he has been targeting outlets aimed at 21- to 30-year-old women for

the company's Pucker line of vibrantly colored sweet-and-sour


Brost says some reporters and editors end up evaluating the drinks made

from these products as much for their looks as for their tastes, adding,

"A lot of these magazines are focused on fashion and style, and the

editor is looking for a drink to match a particular outfit."

DeKuyper has had great success getting lifestyle and food editors to

write about the appletini, a bright green drink made with the company's

Pucker Sour Apple Schnapps. Last spring, a Chicago Sun-Times article

touted the appletini as the new drink for St. Patrick's Day, while a

summer Entertainment Weekly feature on the TV show Sex and the City

cited the appletini as the new drink of choice for actress Sarah Jessica

Parker's character Carrie.

Brost recommends a flexible approach when pitching a liquor brand to an

entertainment or women's magazine journalist, stressing the need to

raise general awareness about the product rather than push a particular

story. "We work with these editors to educate them about the products,"

he says. "And while we're not always sure when the products will be

mentioned, we try to find out in what type of stories they'll be


If there's any problem with pitching liquor brands to lifestyle

reporters, it's that the stories end up competing with clothing lines

and electric gadgets for coverage. There is also the issue of whether a

lifestyle reporter who only dabbles in liquor coverage can speak with

any authority on the subject.

The veterans know their liquor

Indeed, the most influential writers covering liquor brands remain the

veteran spirits reporters who are far more interested in product quality

than image. They include Michael Lasky of, freelance writer

F. Paul Pacult, who contributes to The New York Times and runs The

Spirit Journal website, Terry Sullivan, who pens the mixology column for

GQ, and nationally syndicated radio host Gene Burns, who profiles

spirits in his Dining Around with Gene Burns show.

But James Curich, senior account manager with Lisa Lori Communications,

says there are several emerging younger spirits writers, especially

since the advent of the internet.

Curich, whose agency represents Cutty Sark, the vintage Scotch

Glenrothes, and single-malt brand The Glengoyne, says the liquor product

itself determines which media outlet should be targeted. While the

single-malt Scotch trend may have peaked a few years ago, "they're still

popular because they're high-quality, so the reviewers are still writing

about them," he says, citing as among the ideal outlets for

single-malt Scotch reviews.

Grahn says journalists have also become interested in reporting on

liquor brands as part of the new "nesting trend," as best exemplified by

magazines such as InStyle and even Architectural Digest. "There's been a

resurgence of the concept of cocktail parties at home, which a lot of

the media has picked up on," he says.

As for PR strategies, Deidre Maher, director of PR and corporate

communications for Sidney Frank Importing, which handles high-end Grey

Goose vodka, suggests that product samples can be a good way to entice a

lifestyle journalist to try a liquor product.

But Gordon suggests journalists often need more than a product and a

press release before they'll commit to coverage. "You have to have a

hook," he says. "You can't just go out and say, 'OK write about my

product,' or else you're going to run into a major problem. Get them out

to an event where they can see, taste, and touch the product."

While there have been some strides in getting television outlets to

cover spirits, most PR people say that broadcast still remains a much

tougher sell. "The industry agreed to a self-imposed ban on television

advertising in the 1930s," says Liporace, "and although that has been

broken by some brands, there is still the perception among a lot of

broadcast outlets that spirits don't belong on television.

Liporace says that one fairly good strategy for attracting television

interest is to use a celebrity spokesperson. But, he adds, "the

celebrity needs to have something else going on in their life outside of

what they are doing for your brand. If they are compelling enough, the

media will have to speak with them, and if they are properly

media-trained, they will be able to deliver branded messages."


Newspapers: The New York Times; Los Angeles Times; Chicago Tribune;

Chicago Sun-Times; USA Today; food and lifestyle sections in mid-major

and smaller newspapers

Magazines: Maxim; Gear; FHM; Stuff; GQ; Playboy; Esquire; New York;

Men's Journal; Departures; Travel & Leisure; Cosmopolitan; Vogue; Worth;

Food & Wine; Saveur; Gourmet; Taste; Bon Appetit

Trade Titles: Food Arts; Impact; Nation's Restaurant News; Market Watch

TV & Radio: The Food Network; E! (especially with a celebrity

spokesperson); NPR; local and regional culinary radio programs


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