Liquor companies wooing their female customers

This image 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 marketing as some producers look beyond male-oriented campaigns.

Maybe it's the ad's strikingly handsome spokesman dressed in firemen'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.

With millions of views, the “Make it With a Fireman” video launched this year has caused quite a stir.

“Companies are realizing that women comprise a very heavy percentage of the cocktail-drinking community,” says 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.

Also reaching out is Campari America, formerly known as SKYY Spirits. 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.

On the consumer side, women have shown their interest in the spirits world, forming groups such as Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails, which has several chapters.

Kiki Braverman, cofounder of the San Francisco chapter of LUPEC, has seen the Sauza ad and liked its humor and originality. “I LOVE that a guy is the sex object,” she says.

Still, Braverman, who runs the microbrand Pur Spirits, would like to see advertising go further.

“What about women like me? Professional women with families who neither party the night away nor dream of being rescued by a 22-year-old fireman, but who really do enjoy a good drink with their meal — and who actually have money to spend?” she asks.