Crown Royal enlists singers Ari Lennox, Anthony Ramos to help venues hurt by COVID-19

Linda J. Dodson

Dive Brief:

  • Crown Royal has enlisted singers Ari Lennox and Anthony Ramos to help bars, stages and clubs that are at risk of closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, per a press release. The duo recreated Sly and the Family Stone’s iconic song “If You Want Me to Stay” as part of the effort.
  • The campaign is part of Diageo’s commitment to Free the Bid, a nonprofit that advocates for equality for women directors in advertising. Both artists will perform the song in Crown Royal ads and a music video that were directed by Karena Evans. 
  • As the pandemic continues to impact businesses where spirits are often consumed, the Diageo brand will donate the proceeds from the song, which is now available on all major streaming platforms, to Main Street Alliance, a nonprofit that supports small businesses. Both artists will also donate their royalties from the song to the cause, and their record labels will match the artists’ royalties with a donation to the organization, per the release.

Dive Insight:

While other alcohol brands have sought to uplift bars, clubs and other venues upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, Crown Royal stands out among its peers by launching a music-based campaign, rather than releasing new technology or a traditional ad. Utilizing popular musicians, like the Grammy-nominated Lennox and “Hamilton” actor Ramos, in a campaign successfully can be tricky, but Crown Royal has used the tactic previously

As the pandemic continues to have an impact on businesses, more than 90% of independent bars, stages, clubs and other venues could close forever in 2020, putting 15.6 million jobs at risk, per research cited by Crown Royal. Parent company Diageo reported lower sales overall during the pandemic, although pointed to the resiliency of the U.S. drinker, where sales are up. 

The company also created the campaign with equality in mind. To support the Free the Bid initiative, Crown Royal brought on Karena Evans to execute the TV commercials and music video. The 24-year-old Evans has directed popular music videos for Drake, along with episodic TV. In February 2018, Diageo, which owns sister brands like Don Julio, Guinness and Captain Morgan, joined the Free the Bid campaign to diversify its creative bidding process. 

Over the past few months, Stella Artois, AB InBev and Bud Light have each deployed their resources to support venues in distress. As venues begin to open up again, Crown Royal will provide point-of-sale assets, provide training with brand ambassadors and roll out a sustained effort to raise more charitable contributions through sponsored events, per the company statement. 

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