Founded in 1715 by Jean Martell, Martell is one of the oldest cognac houses in the world and part of the Martell Mumm Perrier-Jouët subsidiary of the French wines and spirits group, Pernod Ricard and one of the most successful cognac brands in the international market.
Brief History of Martell
Jean Martell was a young merchant from Jersey who founded one of the first cognac houses by setting up his own trading business at Gatebourse in Cognac on the banks of the Charente. Martell uses grapes from the vineyards in the Borderie sub region, and Tronçais oak for its casks, this makes a combination that results in an exceptionally smooth cognac. He died in 1753, but his family continued this tradition and developed the export business, making Martell the number one in England in 1814.
In 1831, Martell’s “VSOP” (Very Superior Old Pale) was created cognac and continues its international expansion. Its fame has spread throughout the world, with the first exports to Japan and other Asian markets, such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Korea. Martell Cordon Bleu, the brand’s most famous product, was created in 1912.
Martell was served aboard the Queen Mary in 1936 and even on Concorde in 1977. In 1987, Seagram bought the French manufacturer for $1.2 billion but with the acquisition of some of the Seagram Group’s spirits in 2001, Martell came the property of Pernod Ricard.
With the new millennium came new cognacs from Martell including Martell XO in 2005, Martell Création Grand Extra in the bottle designed by glass designer Serge Mansau in 2007, L’Or de Jean Martell in 2009 and the Martell Chanteloup Perspective which is a tribute to the know-how of the cellar masters and to the Domaine de Chanteloup in 2011.
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It’s Black History Month. This annual celebration of achievements by the black Americans also known as National African American History Month is generally dedicated to recognising the central role of African Americans in United States history and if there is one drink which has played an equally central role in the growth of the African American community, that drink is Hennessy.
The middle-aged African American of today will more often than not identify the legendary centuries-old cognac brand as one they have known since childhood because grandpa drank the dark liquor often, and the one that saw them through college while they were still one of the cool ones. While men are typically seen drinking cognac in black culture, women also indulge in the adult beverage and even with cognac coming in a variety of labels such as Martell and Remy Martin, Hennessy is the most popular cognac in African American History. Thus, it’s become synonymous with hip-hop music and African Americans. But where did this trend come from in the first place?
Most articles seem to agree that rap head Busta Rhymes’ song “Pass the Courvoisier” is the historical marker of the time when cognac consumption in the Black American community reached its peak, but this isn’t true. Busta Rhymes wasn’t doing anything new. Black Americans had been “passing” the cognac for decades before the single came out early in the new millennium, and they were doing it because Hennessy was one of the first spirit brands to devote all resources in the minority audience.
Cognac was born in the southwest region of France when Dutch sailors needed ways to carry their wine along with them on long voyages. By the 18th and 19th centuries, the “new burnt wine” was being regularly exported to Asia, America, England and Holland. Slate has revealed in a recent article that African Americans first documented consumption of cognac while travelling through France as World War II raged.
After the war, Hennessy targeted black publications – a rare and risky gamble, considering the time. This was the 1950s and Hennessy was one of the first brands to feature adverts with black models in the famous Ebony and Jets magazines. But the company didn’t stop there. It was also a leader in hiring Black Americans in ranks of leadership. During the height the United States’ civil rights movement, in 1963, Hennessy brought on 1942 bronze medal Olympian Herb Douglass and he was with the company for more than three decades, serving as Vice President of Urban Market Development. Douglass was merely the third African American to reach the level of vice president of a major national corporation.
Could Hennessy have foreseen a market now often referred to as “the most brand-loyal” with a buying power of $1.2 trillion in 2015? Well, it certainly made the moves required to achieve these. With generations since, it’s seemed a natural progression as the trend continued into the 1990s and 2000s.
The West Africans disseminated information using music even before slavery. The West African “griot”, a storyteller, singer, musician and historian kept records of the village’s events and passed the stories to the next generation.When slavery came, music was used not only to preserve history but to send messages of freedom and of obtaining the freedom. The words in Black American songs have always carried so much weight, and today, Hennessy is mentioned in countless songs by famed artists like Notorious B.I.G., 2Pac, Dr Dre, Kanye West, 50 Cent and many more. This kind of product placement or endorsement is priceless. It’s worked so well because those of us who listen to hip-hop are attracted to glamorous parts of our favourite artists’ lifestyle and liquor is a part of that.
Hennessy has continued to embrace and capitalise on the influence the hip-hop artists are having over the fans. For example, in 2015, to celebrate its 250th anniversary, Hennessy named legendary hip-hop artist Nas its brand ambassador. Since Hennessy’s success in this niche, rap artists and their lyrics have become a key marketing strategy for targeting mainstream America. LL Cool J featured in that Gap commercial in 1997, and most notably, Pusha T wrote McDonald’s famous “I’m Lovin’ It” jingle. Poindexter has reported that strategic endorsement or song mention from a hip-hop artist can translate into higher sales for a brand or company. Apparently, the urban culture icons attract a diverse millennial generation that grew up on rap music.
Today in United States, the black community’s buying power is expected to reach $1.4 trillion by 2020. Any brand not considering this audience certainly won’t be doing its best in the market. To be successful in this market, they will all need to follow Hennessy’s lead.
A lot of Nigerian companies have celebrities to represent their brand and connect with their consumers on a better level. Drink companies have not been left out of the rage and huge brands such as Bacardi Martini, and Nigerian Breweries have Nigerian superstars as the faces of their brands. Here is a list of some of these brands and their ambassadors.
Bacardi Martini – Bryan Okwara
Bryan Okwara was crowned ‘Mr Nigeria’ in 2007, and has since worked hard at establishing himself as a reputable model and actor. He was unveiled on the 1st of August as the brand ambassador for Martini’s Begin Desire campaign as the Nigerian Martini Man.
Skyy Vodka- Patoranking
Nigeria’s dancehall sensation, Patoranking- real name Patrick Nnaemeka Okorie is the brand ambassador for Skyy Vodka. The singer was quoted saying that his nature and personality are in perfect alignment with the brand’s message of fun. He said ‘ I am a great fan of SKYY Vodka and aligning with a strong international brand that not only understands but also appreciates my artistry and is committed to supporting the growth of my music beyond the nigerian borders is a fantastic opportunity.
Smirnoff- Dj Spinall
Popular disc jockey, DJ Spinall is the first African brand ambassador for Diageo’s vodka brand Smirnoff. DJ Spinall, whose real name Sodamola Oluseye Desmond is the official DJ for Beat FM Ibadan. He is also the official DJ for the weekly Industry Nite.
Ciroc – Banky W
Ciroc Vodka has RnB crooner Banky W as its brand ambassador in Nigeria. Described by many as the King of African Soul/R&B, Banky W combines global style with African rhythms and influences to create an entirely unique and impressive sound, which has catapulted him to continental and international acclaim. Aside from his musical success, Banky W is the king of Lagos’ vibrant nightlife scene, and is known as a staple on any exclusive guest list.
Orijin – Reminisce
Top Nigerian rapper Remilekun Safaru popularly known as Reminisce is the brand ambassador for Orijin Bitters. The company chose Reminisce as its brand ambassador in line with what Orijin represents, noting that Orijin comes from a special blend of the old with the new, the traditional with the modern and these same qualities are epitomised by Reminisce, whose quality and depth of work as an artist makes him a perfect fit as brand ambassador.
Life Continental Beer – Flavour
Award winning highlife musician who was previously an ambassador for Guinness Nigeria, recently announced as the Ambassador for leading South-east beer brand, Life Continental Beer.The brand which has been for years the beer of preference for the people of the South-east, made this choice to further reinforce its commitment to the heritage, essence, connection and affinity with the people of South-east.
Johnnie Walker- Don Jazzy
The Mavin Boss joined the league of one of the Global ambassadors for Johnnie Walker, a brand of Scotch whisky owned by Diageo in September 2015. He started off with the ‘Joy will take you further’ campaign which was a huge success.
Martell- Burna Boy
Damini Ogulu popularly known as Burna Boy is the Nigerian Brand Ambassador for Martell Cognac. He joined Jude Abaga (M.I) as a representative of the Cognac brand.
Campari- 2 face
In April 2016, the Legendary International RnB superstar, 2Face was announced as the brand ambassador for premium liqueur brand Campari, The brand explained its decision to partner with 2Face, saying he embodies the values that the Campari brand represents – originality, passion, maturity and universal appeal.
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