- Diageo-owned label Johnnie Walker announced in a news release that it is teaming up with the HBO series "Game of Thrones" on a new White Walker by Johnnie Walker spirit. The limited-edition Scotch whisky is inspired by the zombie-like antagonists of the show, the White Walkers, with a bottle featuring an icy white-and-blue design. On the packaging, the Johnnie Walker Striding Man icon is depicted wearing armor, and the label was created with temperature-sensitive ink that reveals a special graphic when frozen.
- The White Walker whisky isn't the only oddball booze product debuting for the fall season. The recently-rebranded Dunkin' Donuts partnered with Harpoon Brewery on a new Harpoon Dunkin' Coffee Porter, which combines the coffee chain's espresso blend with craft beer. The porter premiered on Sept. 27 at Dunk-toberfest, the introduction to Harpoon's annual "Octoberfest" event in the Boston area.
- The National Hockey League (NHL) this week also announced that it is naming New Amsterdam Vodka as an official league sponsor, per a joint press statement. New Amsterdam will be featured in NHL programming during the regular season, Stanley Cup playoffs and other events. The partnership will include in-game activations; a 360-degree campaign across broadcast, digital, social media and NHL media partners; a digital content series; and retail, bar and restaurant visibility.
The slew of booze news this week underpins how marketers in the alcoholic beverage space are looking to unexpected partnerships, in areas as varied as pop culture, retail and sports, to stoke consumer conversations and draw interest to new products for the fall. The ability to create a product or sponsorship deal that generates social media chatter and stands out from the competition could help in capturing the attention of elusive younger consumer segments like millennials, who are more frequently seeking out unique experiences and flavors from food and beverage makers.
Johnnie Walker is also tapping into the popularity of "Game of Thrones" — a millennial viewing favorite — and hoping to drive sales with a themed whisky ahead of the show's final season, which is expected to debut in 2019. Decking out its Striding Man in armor isn't the first time the brand has tweaked its mascot as part of a marketing collaboration. The brand unveiled a female version, called Jane Walker, for a special-edition Black Label product around Women's History Month and International Women's Day in February.
Unlike Johnnie Walker, which is a legacy name in the spirits space, New Amsterdam is likely hoping its partnership with the NHL will advance brand awareness and visibility. The company is relatively new, having launched just seven years ago, but has grown quickly and claims to be the fastest spirits brand in history to reach both 1 million cases and 5 million cases sold. In teaming up with the NHL, New Amsterdam is looking to extend messaging around a "Pour Your Soul Out" campaign that celebrates competition.
Both millennials and the older end of Gen Z favor spirits, like vodka, gin and whiskey, over beer, per a report in Business Insider. From 2006-2016, beer lost 10% of the market share to wine and liquor, according to Nielsen data cited in the report. While many beer brands are struggling with younger consumers, Harpoon is likely hoping that a team-up with Dunkin' will appeal to millennials' fondness for coffee and distinct flavor combinations.
For Dunkin', the tie-up could signal new marketing opportunities it's exploring as it looks to refresh its brand identity. Late last month, the restaurant chain announced plans to drop "Donuts" from its name and branding in early 2019. The rebranding is part of a broader growth strategy intended to transition the company into a beverage-focused concept that meets the needs of on-the-go and increasingly mobile-minded consumers.