In the past six months, the moon has shined a bit brighter on Boot Campaign with the official partnership of Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine. From the onset of this newborn relationship, combining a true American spirit to savor and the true American spirit to serve just seemed to make sense to Ole Smoky’s vice president of sales Michael Bender and CEO John Cochran. They know a thing or two about great partnerships: the pair worked together previously with different companies, and both served in the armed forces before their civilian careers took off – Michael with the U.S. Coastguard, and John with the Air Force. Because of their past experiences in both the military and the civilian worlds, they wanted to make an impact with the next charity they supported. Before long, they were introduced to Boot Campaign and were instantly excited for a chance to give back to our military servicemen and women; they laced up their boots and jumped into Boot Campaign’s trenches.
For Bender, the actual wearing-of-the-boots at work was already a familiar comfort. “What’s really funny to me is that in the alcohol industry, most people wear a suit and tie every day to work. I [on the other hand], actually wear a pair of combat boots, jeans and a work shirt, so, I’m a bit of an outlier,” he shared. “The fact that I’m pretty much married to my boots already, and the fact that we could partner with an organization like Boot Campaign, just felt like it was ordained from above.” Cochran felt the partnership clicked because, like Ole Smoky, Boot Campaign is also early in its growth. Despite both organizations’ youthfulness, however, their goals maintain old-fashioned philanthropic devotion while adding a twist of marketing savvy and an impressive splash of consumer reach.
Ole Smoky’s primary objectives are twofold, explained Bender. One is to raise funds for Boot Campaign, some of which will come from fundraising efforts with Ole Smoky customers and their demographics. The second will provide Boot Campaign with visibility that might be financially challenging for a nonprofit Boot Campaign’s size. “It would be terribly expensive if you were trying to create visibility in 50 states or 10,000 retail outlets, but because we sell our products in 50 states and in tens of thousands of retail outlets, we have the capability to carry their message to a great number of people that they wouldn’t normally reach,” Bender said.
Since their inaugural joint venture at June’s Redneck Triathlon in Dallas, Ole Smoky hasn’t wasted any time moving forward on in-house fundraising initiatives. Early last month, the company officially announced the partnership with Boot Campaign and unveiled the first official effort to raise money through the sale of co-branded merchandise: the Patriotic Limited Edition Gift Pack will be available throughout the summer, and for each unit sold, a dollar will be donated back to Boot Campaign. Bender and Cochran explained that these types of co-branded, value-added packs go directly to current and retired service member consumers through various Army/Air Force exchange systems (commissaries) where Ole Smoky is sold.
The partnership also means Boot Campaign will have opportunities to raise funds and build awareness at Ole Smoky Moonshine events and at the company’s two Tennessee distilleries—The Holler in Gatlinburg and The Barn at The Island in Pigeon Forge. Over two million visitors pass through the doors of these two distilleries each year to experience and taste their Appalachia moonshine, and that’s good news for expanding Boot Campaign’s reach. Robin Payne, Boot Campaign CEO, recently expressed in a press release how honored BC is to partner with such a patriotic company and that Ole Smoky’s “commitment to our servicemen and women is unprecedented.”
Bender and Cochran echoed Payne’s excitement about the new partnership, elaborating that Ole Smoky’s commitment to Boot Campaign stems from their love of country and their hope to inspire others to serve members of our armed forces as selflessly as they serve all of us. And while consumers may be more apt to purchase a product aligned with their own patriotic feelings, Bender insists Ole Smoky’s motives go beyond strategic marketing. “We do the things we do to help veterans and active duty service members because we feel very passionate about it.” He continued, “At the end of the day, if that makes them feel good about drinking Ole Smoky, then I feel pretty good, but if we’re able to get one person to help one veteran, then maybe we’ve done something to give back.”
For Cochran, part of the true patriotic spirit in the company’s commitment also comes from a hope that other companies might follow suit to instill military pride early on. “I would love to see more companies linked with younger consumers get involved,” he said. “I think it’s important for kids and families to get involved because, often, our youth don’t get an appreciation for our military until too late in life.”
Ultimately, the entire staff at Ole Smoky want people to know their involvement with Boot Campaign comes from a genuine desire to give back to those who serve. For them, the partnership was an easy decision considering Boot Campaign’s sound financial history and proven track record. As Cochran explained, “Unlike a lot of charities in general, I think this one is truly selfless.”