If you’ve paid attention to the US Open in the last 17 years, chances are you’ve seen them: those distinctive, refreshing-looking pink cocktails in the hands of celebrities and fans alike. That’s the Grey Goose Honey Deuce, the tournament’s signature cocktail since 2006. Named for the tie score of 40-40 that’s known in tennis as a deuce—as well as the tennis ball-inspired honeydew melon garnish—the mix of Grey Goose vodka, lemonade, and raspberry liqueur has been sold a whopping 2.25 million times since its inception.
You might think that Grey Goose, the US Open’s official vodka sponsor, would want to vary its offerings from year to year. But actually, Grey Goose’s Aleco Azqueta told BizBash, having the same recipe every year has been a wildly effective strategy for the brand.
“There are not many crowd-favorite cocktails that are served at only one event for a set period of time—even the [Kentucky Derby’s] mint julep can be found in bars across the country,” explained Azqueta, the brand’s vice president of marketing. “This fleetingness has helped to fuel the specialness of the cocktail, and made ordering one a must-do activity during the tournament.”
In fact, Grey Goose broke records at this year’s event, selling more than 450,000 cocktails—a 10% increase over last year. The brand credits the increase with a number of innovative marketing tactics, including new direct-to-consumer cocktail options, enhanced partnerships with influencers and sports media, social media-induced FOMO, and more.
BizBash recently chatted with Azqueta for a deep dive into the brand's marketing and sales strategy; check out the full conversation below.
How did the US Open and Grey Goose partnership come about 17 years ago, and what do you think has made it so successful after all this time?
The US Open has a long reputation amongst tennis fans and New Yorkers for being one of the best fan experiences in the country and the most exciting tournaments worldwide. We saw a great opportunity to partner with the tournament in 2006, bringing our super-premium vodka to a moment that honors the best at their game.
We can pinpoint the partnership’s success to the Grey Goose Honey Deuce cocktail, which over the past 17 years of our partnership has risen to icon status and become synonymous for many with the US Open itself. When we developed a show-stopping cocktail for fans to enjoy at the tournament, the goal was to create something refreshing for fans to enjoy when watching the match—while also pulling at fans’ nostalgia for summertime pink lemonade.
Fans also love that with every purchase of a Grey Goose Honey Deuce cocktail, they are taking home a piece of history. Each cocktail comes in a commemorative cup displaying all of the past champions from prior US Open tournaments.
What do you think accounted for the 10% increase in sales this year?
The increase in sales year over year is due largely in part to the incredible work we’ve done for the last 17 years. Specifically in the past few years, the Grey Goose Honey Deuce’s growth in popularity can be traced back to a few key factors beyond just the incredibly great taste and high quality of the cocktail. To start, there are not many crowd-favorite cocktails that are served at only one event for a set period of time—even the [Kentucky Derby's] mint julep can be found in bars across the country. This fleetingness has helped to fuel the specialness of the cocktail and made ordering one a must-do activity during the tournament.
Social media is another reason we’ve seen growth in sales. As Instagram and other platforms have become more popular, we noticed the Grey Goose Honey Deuce was a popular snap to capture at the tournament and is featured all over Instagram, mainly due to its eye-catching color and the tennis-inspired honeydew balls. Additionally, we’ve seen the US Open become part of the experience economy. Just like going to a Taylor Swift or Beyoncé concert this summer where attendees are sharing their outfits and posting from the show, showing off your US Open outfit and snapping a photo of the Grey Goose Honey Deuce at the US Open is essential to the experience. With more and more people sharing that they were at the Open having a Grey Goose Honey Deuce, it creates a sense of demand and intrigue for those who are not there in person.
Finally, our partners at the USTA have done a tremendous job growing the tournament into an amazing fan experience that both newbies to the sport and tennis enthusiasts alike are flocking to, with the tournament setting attendance records for the past two years. Having sold over 405,000 Honey Deuce cocktails last year, we are thrilled to have sold a record-breaking 450,000 Honey Deuce cocktails at this year’s tournament.
Tell me about this year's e-commerce component, which offered canned Honey Deuces on demand for New Yorkers. How did that come about?
This is the second year that Grey Goose has offered the Honey Deuce Express kit. Our goal this year was to extend the footprint of the Grey Goose Honey Deuce outside of the stadium walls to tennis fans who were not able to attend the tournament but still wanted to enjoy the cocktail.
During the tournament, the Grey Goose Honey Deuce Express brought the US Open’s exclusive signature cocktail in cans right to New Yorkers’ doors in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The canned cocktail was crafted with all the Grey Goose Honey Deuce’s signature ingredients—Grey Goose vodka, fresh lemonade, and raspberry liqueur, with two melon balls for garnish.
You've mentioned the power of organic social media, and you also lean heavily on influencers to promote the Honey Deuce. How has your influencer strategy changed over the years?
Our influencer strategy for the Grey Goose Honey Deuce has evolved as social trends have evolved. Our primary strategy has always been to invite influencers to the Open and to experience the Honey Deuce on the stadium grounds. The cocktail is an iconic part of the tournament experience, and capturing visual content of that experience has been one of the best ways to spread that message. While Instagram was the primary focus for our partnerships in the past, over the last few years, we’ve worked with collaborators who have a multi-platform presence across YouTube as well. Each platform allows the user to experience our world and cocktail in a slightly different way, and therefore reach even more audiences—which has been one of the most impactful ways we’ve spread love for the Honey Deuce.
Further, we hosted a dedicated “influencer night” this year. We invited 20 influencer friends to experience the Open with each other and Grey Goose, increasing content capture and social sharing. Additionally, we whitelisted influencer content from a couple of partners who have strong ties to the NYC and tennis community, reaching a wider audience and maintaining Honey Deuce coverage on social media throughout the duration of the tournament.
I know you also work to engage influencers outside the stadium walls, too.
While we prioritize providing an IRL experience for influencers, it’s always been important that we bring the stadium experience to those who can’t be there in person. Over the past couple of years, we’ve sent Honey Deuce ingredients to content creators across the country to ensure they’re able to make Honey Deuces at home. This year, we delivered the Honey Deuce Express Kits to influencers in NYC during the quarter-finals and semi-finals, to encourage fans to order RTD versions of the iconic cocktail as they watched the matches from home.
Finally, we have entered into long-term collaborations with a network of influencers to create content throughout the year, pulsing during important moments for us such as the Grammys and holiday season. This year, we made sure to give some of those members the true US Open experience and continue amplifying the brand through the Honey Deuce. These long-term collaborations have been an impactful way to retain our audience on social media.
This year, the Honey Deuce was also served in certain bars around the country. Tell me more about that.
It’s no surprise there’s an overwhelming demand to access the signature cocktail outside the tournament. Given that Grey Goose is a favorite of many of the top bars and restaurants around the country due to its high quality and smooth taste, we’ve been able to work closely with these establishments to offer the Grey Goose Honey Deuce on their menus during the tournament—even inspiring restaurants and bars like the Michelin-starred Cote to create their own riff on the signature cocktail.
You also leaned into sports media partnerships in 2023. Why was that so effective?
In continuation of our partnership with the multi-award-winning [HBO Sports] series The Shop UNINTERRUPTED, we created a special tennis-focused bonus episode titled "Set The Bar" to drum up excitement for the Grey Goose Honey Deuce ahead of the US Open. Prior to releasing the episode—which was filmed on the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Court—on the opening day of the tournament, we worked with an incredible group of talent including the show’s host Paul Rivera, guest host professional basketball player Gordon Hayward, actress La la Anthony, 10-time ATP World singles champion James Blake, and current pro tennis player Jessica Pegula to share unfiltered conversation over Grey Goose Honey Deuce cocktails.
Over the years, Grey Goose has worked with notable talent in many disciplines, from musical artists and chefs to actors and athletes, and it has been a proven vehicle for us to reach our core audience. Having such an exciting mix of celebrities from different worlds come together on a popular show like The Shop proved to be a successful way to kick off the tournament and get the Grey Goose Honey Deuce back at the top of people’s minds.
This interview has been lightly edited.