Case Study: Spirited Swag

A Kentucky moonshine distillery gets a fresh apparel makeover.

The Pro

Name: Sarah Whitaker
Title: Director of Business Development
Distributorship: Williams Advertising (asi/360402) in Hopkinsville, KY

The Sale

Dollar Value: $5,500
Client: Casey Jones Distillery, maker of Kentucky moonshine and spirits
Product: Branded apparel

The Promotion

In November 2014, Arlon Casey “AJ” Jones from Kentucky started producing his own moonshine in the tradition of his grandfather Casey Jones, a well-known local who made spirits using hand-built stills. After completing a few batches, AJ Jones knew he had something, and in 2015, Casey Jones Distillery opened its doors in Hopkinsville, KY, offering authentic Kentucky moonshine and spirits made in-house with a copper still.

That same year, the growing company brought on Sarah Whitaker from nearby Williams Advertising to help with online marketing and branded products, including drinkware and other small gifts. About eight months in, Whitaker suggested to the owners that they add fresh styles to their line of basic screen-printed T-shirt offerings sold in their gift shop. She was met with skepticism; the owners weren’t convinced that the higher price on more premium apparel would be worth it. “It was a switch from their current T-shirt supplier, as well as a different direction on design than what they’d done in their first orders,” says Whitaker.

Whitaker wasn’t ready to back down, even going so far as to offer to trade some of the other marketing work done for them in order to go with the premium apparel. They acquiesced, and Whitaker got to work on designs.

Their first T-shirts came from BELLA+CANVAS (asi/39590), and featured Whitaker’s original designs. Two of the styles promote the upcoming Total Solar Eclipse that will be visible over Hopkinsville on August 21. It just so happens that the small town is directly on the expected center line of the eclipse’s path, meaning viewers there will enjoy one of the best vantage points in the world.

“The point of greatest totality is just steps away from the distillery on a nearby farm,” says Whitaker. “Hopkinsville is expecting thousands of people in August, from all over the world, including astronomers and media outlets.”

Casey Jones Distillery is certainly capitalizing on the event, having already launched its Lights Out Total Eclipse Moonshine amid plans to allow campers on their property to enjoy the eclipse, musical performances and of course, authentic Kentucky moonshine. It’s a great opportunity that could lead to boosted sales, says Whitaker, who has recently helped the company pick out additional apparel from Heritage Sportswear (asi/60582) and Next Level Apparel (asi/73867) for their offerings. The distillery continues to reorder T-shirts, for a total of almost 600 pieces sold since last spring, and sells their “Signature Soft Tees” at $25 a piece, providing a healthy margin for this small business.

“They took a shot at the idea,” says Whitaker, “and it turned out great for them.”

The Takeaways

  1. Don’t be afraid to suggest new product ideas.
  2. Take advantage of upcoming events that customers can use for marketing purposes.
  3. Keep clients’ products fresh with regular additions to their lineups.

3 Sales Tips

1. Before reaching out to a startup or small business about promotional products, do some research on the company. Find out what they offer to clients, their preferred ways of marketing, the tone of their social media presence, and their overall personality and culture. That way, you’ll pitch relevant products the decision-maker will be interested in.

2. Have spec samples available. With limited time and budgets, small businesses want to know all the details up front in order to make an informed decision. Drop off samples at their offices, and definitely bring them on the sales call. Make sure they match their logo colors and feature their imprinted logo.

3. Stay top-of-mind with prospects and customers alike with regular follow-up. Send them periodic spec samples of new products that will fit their brand, and keep their upcoming events and marketing efforts on your calendar so you can offer branded merch for their future needs.