I was brought onto the Jose Cuervo brand late into 2014 to provide support to Leandi who had been running lead on this brand since forever. Jose Cuervo had come on as an alcohol sponsor to a lot of festivals and international music tours in South Africa and the requirement was more than just brand work – we were doing large-scale production at events. The brand had invested in completely refurbishing shipping containers – completely rebuilt into a 270 degree working bar with a rooftop, doors operated only through hydraulics, it had a spiral staircase. It was very very very impressive.
So I came into the picture once the containers had already been built. They were both going to be launched at Vodacom In The City in Johannesburg, the first event sponsorship of the Cuervolucion campaign. I wasn’t yet active on the brand so I was there more as an observer, which also worked out in my favour, sampling all the product and making sure quality standards remained high 🙂
The Cuervolucion production was quite a thing. The container had to be kept at a container storage unit in whichever city it was. That was a negotiation in itself. It then had to be transported on a specific truck that had its own forklift on the actual truck – so the truck would drive and then plonk the container down (usually at a festival site in the middle of nowhere). We had to be very careful with budget as just going near the container in the yard cost something. Opening it cost something. Once the container was on site, we had to open it, set it up, rotate the steel spiral staircase out, unpack all the collateral and product, link up to the generators and water supply, get the fridges going, the margarita machines, stock the display product onto the walls (50 plus bottles). All our ops and bar staff had to have specific training on how to operate the hydraulics and set up all the structural elements of the container including power and water supply. On show day we had to start freezing margaritas nice and early and set-up the rooftop poles and cover. Lots of little elements.
Then there was all the collateral we had to produce. Flags, t-shirts, caps, cowboy hats, balloons, masks, capes, cups, shot glasses, gazebos, gum boots, vests, shorts, jackets, mobile margarita machines, trays, umbrellas, bunting… The logistics were crazy. So many things to consider and so much out of your control, like weather and generator failure.
So both containers were launched at Vodacom In The City. Activations were run so that people could get access to the Cuervo deck for an hour for some product and collateral. The margarita was sold for the first time with Cuervo Silver. There was the shot ski – where you take 3 shots of Cuervo on a long ski with your mates. There was a roaming margarita machine. There was collateral given out including large Cuervolucion flags. It was a big night, with lots of learnings, like how important security is, don’t underestimate drunk people, drunk people aren’t as funny as they think when you’re sober etc.
Next up, we had Synergy Live and SoundsWild on the same weekend in November 2014. Leandi went to JHB to set-up the one container while I set-up the other in Villiersdorp. Each event had the same concept for the brand, but each festival was by different companies – what happened at the one didn’t automatically apply to the other. The negotiations were elaborate and as per usual once you’re on site you find out that what was agreed often differed to the reality and then you must just make a plan.
Synergy was 2 days of trade and SoundsWild was 1. Each festival had its own bar company where Cuervo had exclusivity so we had to negotiate with each of them, work out targets, how much stock must be supplied, how it needs to be served by their independent bar staff, who need to all be in Cuervo t-shirts, what sizes do you need, then reconning both the container bars and the main bars to establish sales figures and accurate stock taking etc. It’s enough to make your brain melt! It was also the first time we were pushing Cuervo Silver as a mixer and also in our margarita, so there was a lot of education involved.
On the brand side we had so many staff to manage – bar staff and activators for two shifts, tented accommodation for them, uniforms, briefings, meal breaks etc. Over 3 days. Videographers, photographers, media and bands to look after.
The logistics were tricky – trucks breaking down en route to the Overberg and arriving hours late, resulting in a late start overall. This affects margarita freezing time, a rush to drop us in the wrong position, being far from water supply (no water, no margaritas). Then you have power issues in 30 degrees. Even if the margaritas aren’t ready, no one likes warm Cuervo.
At Synergy we traded the Friday evening from 6pm until late, luckily (for us, not sales) it was cool so the margarita demand was low. Saturday was our day of brand activations. We started freezing EARLY. We ran competitions to get people up the deck where they got to Meet Margarita, have a shot of Cuervo Gold, get some branded collateral and eat some tacos made with Cuervo Gold. The deck was in prime position to watch the bands from, they got to stay up there for an hour. We had over 100 guests up there throughout the day. We had large inflatable Cuervo balloons being thrown during some of the bands’ sets. We had a huge inflatable Cuervo bottle. We had roaming margaritas sellers. We had photographers and videographers capturing all the chaos. We had VIPs and media on the deck for an hour. The night ended late.
On top of the actual brand production, we needed to manage some content creation. On the Saturday, we woke up the bar staff (and of course Taxi Violence) to open the container at 6am so we could shoot an unplugged song with the bar in the background. It was a tough morning, and Leandi and I were not popular but the things we do for the golden hour of light… Sorry guys.
aKing’s Laudo was luckier in his shoot time.
Both bands are favourites of ours and great supporters of the brand.
One thing we can say is that we had a lot of fun. We had great suppliers that we worked with on-site, we all had the same vision in mind for what we needed to achieve – a complete revolution in the way that you can only achieve with a Jose Cuervo. Saying NO to boring.
For me personally, it was great working in large-scale production again, which is where I originally learnt my skills. I love being involved in music productions and it all just felt so natural. It was awesome to be involved in the local music scene and to be working on a brand that is relevant to your personal demographic. It was also a successful start to a string of events we had lined up, and were trying to line up, and the success of this tricky weekend was the affirmation we needed to keep us confident we were on the right track.