Brand Strategy

How Campari engineered Aperol’s rise in the US

A cameo in “The White Lotus” and a US Open activation are just some of the tools in the brand’s belt.
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Fabio Lovino

· 4 min read

When in Rome, the saying goes. And while the US isn’t exactly next to Italy, Campari is betting that US customers might just follow the same advice—at least when it comes to their drinking habits.

Making happy hours in the US a little bit more European is a task that falls to Andrea Sengara, the head of US marketing at Aperol’s parent company, Campari. It starts with aperitivo hour, which features bittersweet carbonated aperitivo beverages like the Aperol spritz (made with Aperol) and the Negroni (made with Campari) that are meant to be enjoyed before dinner.

“Late afternoon, early evening: That’s the aperitivo moment,” Sengara told Marketing Brew. “It’s been a ritual for quite a long time in Europe and specifically in Italy.”

With a team of nearly 40 marketers, as well as a global marketing team based in Milan and a team managing brand ambassadors, Sengara is focused on bringing Aperol to the forefront of pop culture, whether that’s music festivals, sporting events, or TV shows like The White Lotus.

Sun and spritz

Warm-weather events are key marketing moments for the brand. This summer, Aperol partnered with the US Open to serve cocktails on the grounds to attendees. The brand served Aperol spritzes from a patio bar, an on-site truck, and two mobile carts.

In the spring, Aperol made its debut at Coachella as an official partner, which was designed to help scale the brand, Sengara said. Aperol hosted an on-site activation called the Aperol Spritz Piazza that featured places for festivalgoers to cool down with an Aperol spritz. The activation also featured The Orange Dome, a site where the Instagram-savvy Coachella crowd could take photos. Other Coachella activations included the Aperol Tram, a photo-ready pavilion, and a digital kiosk featuring trivia about Aperol and Italy.

“When we looked at American culture, the music festival was something that we thought was pretty much right-on in terms of that daytime, afternoon, socializing with friends, having fun, sparking joy [type of] occasion,” Sengara said. “It’s people coming together to enjoy something really fun with their friends…during the warmer weather seasons.”

Aperol has plans to go beyond warmer weather and engage in advertising around the colder months, too. This year, Sengara said the brand will also be activating in certain ski resort towns, like Aspen and Vail, to encourage people to think of the Aperol spritz as a winter drink as well.

Dream team

There are opportunities for Aperol to appear front-and-center in fictional locales, too—like the fictitious White Lotus resort in Sicily that was the backdrop for the second season of the hit HBO series The White Lotus. Sengara said she wasn’t aware of a formal deal with HBO, but she said her team talked to the production team about how an Aperol spritz should be made and served authentically. In the end, the drink was featured in several episodes.

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“As a part of filming that show in the summertime in Sicily, Aperol spritzes would naturally be all over the place,” she said.

After the cocktail’s cameo in the series, Campari Group CEO Bob Kunze-Concewitz told investors the series was “having an impact.” The company reported a 50% increase in sales of Aperol in the US last year.

Sengara said The White Lotus helped encourage consumers to think about the product outside of the warm summer months. The series, which premiered at the end of October last year, positioned the Aperol spritz in front of consumers in the middle of autumn.

Beyond TV, Aperol has brand ambassadors that help make sure bartenders know how to “make the best Aperol spritz,” Sengara said. Aperol has brand ambassadors on both coasts, and each one goes to bars within their regions and markets the spirits to businesses, educating bartenders about Aperol spritzes and other drinks that use Campari Group–owned spirits.

Pop culture–forward marketing will continue to define Aperol, Sengara said, and her focus as a marketer hasn’t changed.

“Since starting at Campari Group, one of the things I really wanted to do was embed the brands into culture [and] ingrain them into the cultural zeitgeist,” Sengara said. “Those themes, those marketing priorities I shared with the team [in the last three years], they’re still the same that we have today. We’ve made such tremendous progress against them [that] it’s more evolving with us.”

Update 11/07/2023: This piece has been updated to reflect that Andrea Sengara has been at Campari for three years.

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