Challenging at-home mixologists to play with fire.



Solo Brandcenter Project | One Week

Brand Strategy | Social Media + Influencer Campaign


During quarantine due to the outbreak of COVID-19, America's cocktail lovers were homebound and in need of booze. To encourage them to incorporate Ilegal Mezcal in their homemade drinks, I developed a social media campaign, daring them to play with fire. 


  • Researched alcohol and drinking trends.

  • Spoke to homebound drinkers about coping with quarantine.

  • Snooped on social media for cocktail inspiration. 


Cocktail hour took on increased significance during quarantine.


To relieve the tedium of quarantine, Americans turned to an age-old remedy: booze. In the third week of March 2020, all alcohol sales were up 55%, according to Nielsen. Liquor and spirits sales increased by 75%. Online alcohol sales surged 243%. Suddenly, social media was awash in pictures of people's creatives "quarantinis." Thus, liquor brands had an opportunity to introduce themselves to new customers' liquor cabinets through online sales. 



People expect to find mezcal at bars, not in home liquor cabinets. 

Like tequila, mezcal is distilled from the sap of the agave plant. Unlike tequila, which only uses blue agave, mezcal can be made from any cultivar. The heart of the agave plant, the piña, is over-roasted, rather than steamed, for a distinctly smoky flavor.

What was once an overlooked spirit from Oaxaca, Mexico, has become a premium export. International drinkers appreciate mezcal for its artisanal qualities and nuanced variety. Mintel reported in December 2019, before the outbreak of COVID-19, that the market was projected to grow by 14.2% from 2020 to '25. 

Mezcal's selling point, its smoky flavor, is also what intimidates casual drinkers. They view it as an acquired taste, best left to the professional bartenders who understand its unique properties. In the first six months of 2019, only 7% of white spirit drinkers purchased a bottle. 



Amateur Mixologists, who are somewhere between a SOLO cup and a highball glass.

Amateur Mixologists are mostly Older Millennials (30 to 45-year-olds), who comprise the core white spirit drinkers, given their age and earning potential. They over-index as Hispanic, who drive premium tequila and mezcal growth, according to Mintel. Amateur Mixologists want to "trade up" from popular alcohol brands, and they seek simple ways to recreate the cocktails they enjoy at bars, without the fuss.



Ilegal Mezcal is an easy way to add a hint of danger to familiar cocktails. 

The Ilegal brand has an unmistakably rebellious spirit. In 2004, a US expat in Oaxaca, Mexico, John Rexer, started bootlegging unbranded mezcal across the border to his bar Antigua, Guatemala, Café No Sé. In 2006, Rexer began distilling his own and founded Ilegal. Bacardi acquired a minority stake in 2017, and Ilegal has since adopted politically progressive marketing. Notably, its website sells "Donald Trump, eres un pendejo (Donald Trump, you are a dumbass)" t-shirts and posters.

Ilegal's un-aged "Joven" variety has been described as an entry-level mezcal. Its light smoke and citrusy notes are suited for beginners—and an array of cocktails. The Ilegal website features recipes that use its Joven mezcal in place of other white spirits, like tequila, vodka, and gin, in classic recipes. Thus, Ilegal Mezcal presents an opportunity to add an unexpected hint of smoke to familiar cocktails, such as negronis, margaritas, and Moscow mules. 


Incorporating Ilegal Mezcal in your homemade cocktails is as exciting as playing with fire.

THE IDEA: Play With Fire

A three-stage social media and influencer campaign that challenges
Amateur Mixologists to #PlayWithIlegal.

1. Introduce:

Sponsored Instagram posts + partnerships with big-name influencers (1m+ followers). Influencers will share their favorite mezcal spins on familiar recipes. 




Are your homemade quarantinis missing something? Bring the heat to your cocktail game with Ilegal Mezcal. Our Joven variety has a light smoke for that extra oomph. 🔥

Play With Fire. #PlayWithIlegal #ad



Paid partnership with ilegalmezcal


Was feeling dangerous and used Ilegal Mezcal in my margarita instead of tequila. That subtle smoke makes me want to break quarantine and try something illegal. 😎 😈 🔥

Play With Fire. #PlayWithIlegal #ad

PLAY WITH FIRE - Mezcal Manhattan Recipe | Ilegal

2. Inform:

Good Drinks Gone Bad: tutorial video series on YouTube and Instagram, demonstrating how to revamp classic cocktails with mezcal.

3. Inspire:

Micro-influencers (10-50k followers) battle over IG Live to make the most 🔥 cocktail, winner decided by comments. Promo codes to drive sales. 





WE WON! Thanks everyone for tuning in and voting! Here's the winning drink: the Oaxacan Old Fashioned, made with Ilegal Mezcal. Click the link in my bio for the recipe and the mezcal I used.


Play With Fire. #PlayWithIlegal #ad


Paid partnership with ilegalmezcal

My Team:

Thomas Freeman


My Part:

Creative Brief

Brand Strategy


Communications Plan

Deck Narrative, Design, and Presentation

In-Depth Interviews