Consumer Awareness: Spirited effort lifts profile of Diageo's low-carb potables

The low-carb diet craze spread into the beverage world last year as brewers began introducing low-carb beer alternatives.

The low-carb diet craze spread into the beverage world last year as brewers began introducing low-carb beer alternatives.

Diageo North America sells a broad portfolio of spirits that also have very few, if any, carbs. However, it was concerned that consumers were not aware that choices, such as vodka, tequila, whisky, and gin, have zero carbs.

Diageo teamed with longtime agency Alan Taylor Communications to create a multibrand campaign to promote that message and raise the profile of Diageo spirits among consumers.

"There was a great opportunity out there for us," says Gary Galanis, VP of communications for Diageo North America.

A consumer survey the company conducted before the campaign found that 63% of people weren't aware of the zero-carb properties of various spirits. "Overall, we found that people assumed that low-carb beer was the only alternative they had," says Melissa Kruse, a Taylor account supervisor.


Diageo opted to focus the campaign on several of its brands - Smirnoff, Crown Royal, Jose Cuervo, Tanqueray, and Johnnie Walker - all of which have zero carbs. With the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's holidays traditionally being a major selling season, the campaign was set to kick off during that period with a theme of low-carb holiday entertaining.

Convinced that the low-carb trend was attracting more men than women, the team decided to tie into a major male event - the Super Bowl - for a second PR leg related to the big game.


The team sought celebrity spokespeople to gain consumer and media attention. Ted Allen, the food and wine expert on Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, became the spokesman for the holiday party portion of the campaign. Allen was featured in an SMT with a "Low Carb Thanksgiving" theme. He also did interviews with various morning TV shows.

Diageo created a website,, featuring its spirits, along with low-carb recipes and party tips. The site went live the week before Thanksgiving.

B-roll on low-carb holiday party options was created featuring zero-carb cocktails made with Diageo products.

A second SMT featured a senior editor from In Touch magazine discussing hot holiday gifts, including Diageo spirits.

For the Super Bowl, the team created "The Ultimate Low-Carb Tailgate Party" in Houston the day before the game. Allen co-hosted the event, along with four past Super Bowl MVPs - Marcus Allen, Troy Aikman, Franco Harris, and Terrell Davis. The athletes made cocktails with Diageo spirits and then gave Ted Allen football-playing lessons.

One of the players, Marcus Allen, conducted a media tour of broadcast and radio outlets. He also participated in an SMT with Harris that went out to 14 markets the Friday before the game. The stars also conveyed responsible drinking messages.

The website was updated with low-carb tailgating recipes and cocktails named after the MVPs featured in the campaign.


The first phase of the campaign garnered more than 66 million media impressions, while the Super Bowl phase brought in 40 million more.

Awareness of several brands involved in the effort also rose. Smirnoff awareness increased 38%, according to a post-campaign survey. Smirnoff Citrus Twist awareness rose 55%. Crown Royal and Jose Cuervo awareness were up 43% each.

The website received more than 300,000 impressions and has registered more than 1,200 people for an online community.

The various SMTs were featured in 50 markets. B-roll was picked up in 46 markets, as well as on CNN, CNNfn, and CNBC.

Print coverage included USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and Us Weekly. "PR is definitely what drove the awareness of the brands," says Galanis.


Planning for future campaigns is under way. Diageo efforts likely will continue to focus on special occasions.

PR team: Diageo North America (Stamford, CT) and Alan Taylor Communications (New York)

Campaign: Diageo Zero-Carb Spirits campaign

Time frame: November 2003 to present

Budget: Approx. $600,000

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