The Vanity Fair coverage helps reach new audiences.

Coverage triples from the year before.

Celeb bartender Pam Wiznitzer talks up the julep.

The Fox Sports story reaches new audiences.

Woodford Reserve Distillery Wins Big at the Track

The Kentucky Derby. It’s way more than a horse race. It’s the thoroughbreds, it’s the outlandish hats, it’s the buzz of the infield. It’s the run for the roses as fast as you can. And the drink? The Woodford Reserve $1,000 Mint Julep, of course. Since 1997, Woodford Reserve bourbon has been the official bourbon of the Derby, allowing the distiller to lift its own presence while raising major funds and exposure for its nonprofit partners.

But for the 2015 Derby, Woodford Reserve Distillery wanted to amp it up even more. Let’s go for a wider audience, they said; let’s take a different approach to communications. Let’s get that superstar bartender Pam Wiznitzer in the saddle and have her cook up a brand-new julep recipe that’ll be so good, it’ll make the news.

Woodford Reserve didn’t leave anything to chance. It began media engagement in January—five months prior to the starting gun. It paired up Wiznitzer and Woodford Reserve’s Master Distiller and sent them on the road for a multitiered press tour promoting the cocktail and the partnership.

At the same time, the distillery turned its attention to the nonprofit partnership program—and broke it wide open. Rather than just focus on Kentucky nonprofits, Woodford Reserve created on an online voting program to determine its charity partner. The nominated organizations extended a lot of campaign buzz to their audiences—and vice versa.

When the dust settled, Woodford Reserve had received more than triple the coverage seen in 2014, with stories landing on The Today Show, Fox & Friends, Fox Sports, and CNBC, as well as in publications including The Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, Town & Country, Forbes, Food & Wine, Maxim, and more.

A big boost in the Woodford Reserve profile and a huge score for charity. That’s what’s called a wire-to-wire winner.