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More women embracing liquor, cocktail recipes, and companies are taking notice

((AP Photo/Sauza))
This image from video released by Sauza shows a fireman holding a bottle of Sauza Tequila for a video directed by Matt Lenski for the "Make it with a Fireman" campaign. The ad, launched in April, reflects a shift in spirits marketing as some producers look beyond traditional male-oriented campaigns.

Maybe it’s the ad’s strikingly handsome spokesman dressed in fireman’s gear. Maybe it’s the fact that his shirt has a winsome habit of disappearing, revealing sculpted pecs. Maybe it’s the beret-wearing kitten he chats with. In French.

Whatever the reason, you don’t have to watch Sauza Blue Tequila’s latest YouTube video long before realizing this is not exactly your father’s liquor ad. Or your boyfriend’s.

With millions of views, the “Make it with a Fireman” video launched this year has caused quite a stir. Brand officials say social media mentions of Sauza are up and the adorable blue-eyed kitten costar has built a fan base of its own.

On a broader scale, the ad reflects a slight shift in spirits marketing as some producers look beyond traditional male-oriented campaigns.

“Companies are realizing that women comprise a very heavy percentage of the cocktail-drinking community and I believe they are starting to speak more directly to women without the fear that they’re going to alienate the male base,” said Allison Evanow, one of the relatively few female executives in the spirits industry as founder and CEO of Square One Organic Spirits in San Francisco. “There’s more advertising that is either targeted to women or at least is not quite as male-dominated.”

For Sauza, the decision to engage female consumers was prompted by data showing that a good chunk of tequila sold is being consumed in margaritas. And those margaritas are being consumed by women. “So you just look at that and you go, ‘Wow! We should really be talking to this demographic,’” says Kevin George, chief marketing officer for Beam Inc., which owns Sauza.

Sauza’s all-digital campaign started with suggested recipes for ladies nights in or out, and this year they looked at ways to deliver that message in a new context, hence the fireman ad created by Euro RSCG Chicago.

Striking the same tongue-in-cheek note as the Old Spice TV spots featuring Isaiah Mustafa, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like,” the Sauza YouTube video is a mash-up of female appeal – Firemen! Kittens! – and aims to be just over-the-top enough to let women know they’re in on the joke.

More ads are planned in the Sauza campaign. Meanwhile, the company has other brands with a feminine touch, include Red Stag Bourbon, launched in a black cherry flavor in 2009 and in honey tea and spiced versions this year, along with Skinnygirl Cocktails and Courvoisier Rose.

“Marketing spirits to women is something that we think is a big opportunity,” says George.

Also reaching out is Campari America, formerly known as SKYY Spirits, and home to a number of brands, including Yamazaki Japanese Single Malt Whisky and Wild Turkey. The company has created a “Women & Whiskies,” campaign, a group and event series intended to give women a forum to enjoy and learn more about whiskies and cocktails.

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