Campari America’s Ugo Fiorenzo: Never Stop Building

The Americas is the largest market for Campari, accounting for about 43% of total growth. As such, Campari America has repositioned itself in the last four years to support growth in the region, from expanding its portfolio through acquisitions, fully aligning with Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits in 44 markets, moving its headquarters from San Francisco to New York to establishing itself as a leader in the spirits marketing space.

“A lot of things are happening in Campari America. In the last three or four years I think we are a complete different company, evolving, and this is a clear example of where we want to be, what we want to be, and how we want to play,” Ugo Fiorenzo, managing director for Campari America, tells WSD.

GRAND MARNIER A GAME CHANGER. Ugo says buying Grand Marnier in 2016 was a “game changer” for the Campari portfolio. “We needed to really have a portfolio that was able to talk to the bartender, talk to the consumers, and develop the wonderful portfolio that we have. We were missing a Cognac. I think today we have a well balanced portfolio.”

In 2018, the company launched its first global, 360 campaign for the brand with the tagline “Live Grand,” which Campari will use to steer the brand away from its widely accepted use, the shot occasion. Additionally, the other primary focus for Grand Marnier this year is the launch of a new variant called Cuvee Louis Alexandre.

BOOSTING SKYY’S PERFORMANCE. Like its competitors in the vodka category, Campari’s flagship Skyy vodka has struggled against vodka powerhouse Tito’s vodka.

Campari spent much of the fiscal year making sure the brand is positioned properly against its competitors and investing in solid marketing strategies. In June 2018, the company launched a new campaign called Proudly American to correspond with Pride Week. Phase two of the campaign was a partnership with WWE superstar, actor, TV personality and humanitarian, John Cena, who was featured in two different online videos.

“John obviously gives us a huge voice to tell the message of the campaign. So, I think with John and the combination of the other influencers we’re really reaching a pretty wide audience now and bringing back some love for Skyy,” says Melanie Batchelor, vp of marketing for Campari America.

ADAPTING THE MESSAGING. Brand Campari, and more recently Aperol, have both seen a groundswell in popularity driven by their experiential marketing and social media messaging. When asked how Melanie has managed to capture lightning in a bottle not once but twice, she says: “We’re a challenger company because all of our brands, even our biggest brand is still a small brand in the category, so we have to think differently. And I always challenge my team to say, ‘If we do what everyone else does with less money, we’re not gonna win in the marketplace.’ So, for me, it’s just very simple that we can’t afford to follow the expected approach.”

Espolon, which is also growing well, has been all grassroots without much traditional marketing, she says, owing much to its international bartender competition called Cocktail Fights.

“It’s really the combination of both that we’re finding most powerful. Because if we’re relying on experiential, we can really only touch a very small number of people. But I think that combination of the grassroots activity and the experiential that we amplify through digital is really where we’re finding the sweet spot for brands like Espolon, for brands like Aperol and Campari.”

LOOKING AHEAD. Although Campari’s portfolio as a whole is chugging along nicely, Ugo says: “We are always building on top of what we’ve already built. It’s like a cathedral, you never stop building.”


In 2018, control states spirits trends outpaced 2017 growth with volumes up 2.8% and sales up 5.8% for the year, compared to 2017’s 2.5% and 4.8%, respectively, according to recent NABCA data. NABCA notes that 2018 was the first time in the past six years that spirits volumes did not lag behind its long-term trend.

Breaking it down by category, Irish whiskey continues to be the fastest-growing, up 13.8% in 2018. However, its growth is starting to slow, compared to 2017’s 14.2% growth. Tequila’s growth is also noteworthy, up 9% for the year. Other category performances include:

— Brandy/Cognac up 0.9%
— Canadian whiskey up 2%
— Cordials up 1.1%
— Domestic whiskey up 5.2%
— Gin down 0.4%
— Rum up 0.3%
— Scotch down 0.2%
— Vodka up 2.5%

Based on 2018’s performance, NABCA believes that 2019 spirits growth will be comparable to or slightly better than previous years.

Meanwhile, wine volumes continued to suffer in control states. In 2018, wine volumes were down nearly 2%, compared to 2% growth in 2017. Results were largely dragged down by Pennsylvania (-3.2%).


Now that the federal government has reopened, the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is back at it. The main issue: the backlog of COLAs and other applications. The shutdown “roughly doubled” the existing backlog, per according to the agency.

“We recognize that TTB approvals are critical to your businesses, and that the partial government closure over the past five weeks may have adversely affected your operations,” per the TTB newsletter.

The agency says they are doing what they can to recover after being shut down for five weeks, including redeploying staff to critical areas, authorizing overtime, applying risk-based enforcement and streamlining their processes.

To help get back on track as quickly as possible, the TTB asks industry members to withdraw any applications that are no longer needed, and to only submit complete and correct applications to limit any multiples.

“We are still assessing the overall effect of the shutdown on our service levels going forward, and we are committed to working diligently to process these applications and restore normal operations as quickly as possible.”


In 2017, the National Football League opened up spirits advertising during games. This weekend, several big spirits brands are taking the opportunity to get in front of millions of viewers during the big game.

Brown-Forman’s Jack Daniel’s will debut its first Super Bowl ad this weekend. It will appear during pre-game coverage, according to B-F. The ad, called “Our Town,” highlights the people of Lynchburg, TN, where Jack Daniel’s is made.

“This ad has been so well received by our friends around the world, and we’re excited to share it and a bit of our town on football’s biggest stage,” says Jack Daniel’s group brand director Matt Blevins, per Just Drinks. “Jack Daniel’s wouldn’t be what it is without the people who make it and this is a way for us to celebrate our town and those who mean so much to our brand.”

Hennessy will also debut its first game day ad. The ad, called “Major,” highlights the brand’s “Never stop. Never Settle” mantra, per a release. It follows the story of cycling champion Marshall “Major” Taylor, who held seven world records by 1898 and was the first African American to win a world championship.

You may recall, Jim Beam and Yellow Tail will also run ads during the Super Bowl.


TERLATO WINES HIRES NEW SUPPLY & OPERATIONS VP. Michael Cerio will be the new vp, wine supply & operations at Terlato Wines. In his new role, Michael will be responsible for vineyard and winery operations in Washington and California as well as supply chain planning, production and logistics operations, per a release. He joins Terlato from The Wine Group, where he worked as vp of operations.

SMWE SALES DOWN IN 2018. Ste. Michelle Wine Estates net sales were down 1% for the year, largely thanks to lower shipment volume, according to parent company Altria’s earnings yesterday. Volumes were down 3.3% to 8.2 million cases in 2018. In Q4, sales and volumes were down even further. Net sales were down 11% in the quarter and volumes declined 15% to 2.4 million cases.

MGPI PARTNERS WITH RNDC IN NEBRASKA. MGP Ingredients’ proprietary brands, Till American Wheat Vodka, George Remus Straight Bourbon, Remus Repeal Reserve and Rossville Union Straight Rye, will now be available in Nebraska through Republic National Distributing Co. All brands are now available in AZ, CO, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, MN, MO, NE, OH, TX and WI.

NELSON’S GREEN BRIER DISTILLERY BRINGS BACK HONEY CASK FINISH. Tennessee-based Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery is bringing back its limited-release Belle Meade Bourbon Honey Cask Finish. The bourbon is aged in barrels that were previously filled with honey and bottled at cask strength (about 112 proof). The bourbon will only be available at the distillery starting this weekend and sell for $125 a 750 ml.

Until Monday,
Your Editors

Emily Pennington –
Sarah Barrett –

“Advice is like snow – the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into the mind.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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