WESTON, Mo. — The partnership between 360 Vodka and the Kansas City Royals couldn’t have started at a better time.
Bottled at McCormick Distilling Company and billed as an eco-friendly vodka, 360 owns a prominent spot at Kauffman Stadium and continues to carve out the same niche in the Kansas City market. Part of the success can be traced to the sponsorship with the Royals, which drives sales and provides unique opportunities.
Last week, McCormick started three days’ worth of production on 2015 Royals World Series commemorative bottles. The keepsake product expects to be on shelves in the region by Thursday or Friday with a retail price of around $15.
“It’s really helped the popularity of our brand locally,” said Ken Burnette, vice president of sales for McCormick. “Sometimes the communication message about being local isn’t as easy to communicate as it seems. I think this was a platform to really expand the knowledge of our brand and the presence of our distillery to people who may not have been familiar with us before.”
360’s sponsorship of the Royals started prior to last season and included a large logo towering over right field at Kauffman Stadium.
In correlation with a start to the sponsorship, 360 bottled 2014 commemorative Royals bottles, honoring their first run to the World Series in nearly three decades. Positive feedback on the promotion led to this year’s second run and a plan to double production from a year ago in anticipation of the product’s desirability.
360, a product line started more than a decade ago, has now produced the second and third Major League Baseball licensed vodka bottle ever.
“Some of the larger stores last year, they’d buy 5, 10 cases to put on display,” Burnette said. “A lot are buying palettes this year and are just going to put a massive stack in the middle of the floor because they went through the product that fast, plus the added benefit of the excitement of the team winning the World Series last year. People are just going to gobble this up.”
With its unique swing-top cap design, this year’s version features significant changes.
The 360 blown glass logo on the bottle was made smaller to create additional room for the label. Last year, the company utilized a pennant design and a powder blue color scheme, which included the vertical, “Let’s Go Royals” sticker seal along the neck.
This year’s version solely uses the traditional royal blue, gold and white look with a more vertical look to the label.
The words “2015 World Champions” and the Royals logo make up the simplistic but eye-catching design with a large 360 vodka insignia at the top. Looking through the front of the bottle, a large, gold Royals logo makes up the inside of the back label.
Burnette said McCormick plans to continue its limited edition Royals bottles each year as long as the partnership continues, and it won’t be dependent on the Royals reaching and/or winning the World Series.
“Obviously, this year is unique because we could play off the World Series and promote that and salute the Royals for their achievements,” Burnette said. “If it doesn’t happen this year, we’ll be disappointed, but I’m sure we’ll get close,” he said. “But nevertheless, no matter what happens, next year we will have yet another version of it.
“Who knows? Maybe they’ll become collector’s items at some point.”
The eco-friendly nature of 360 vodka includes using recycled glass for all the bottles and recycled paper for the labels. Burnette also said the company uses special inks that help reduce the environmental impact of making the product.
Even the special swing tops can be mailed in to McCormick for reuse with a donation made to the Royals Charities for each one that comes back from the commemorative bottles. The company plans to make a charitable donation check presentation to the Royals on April 8.
The special production run of the Royals vodka bottles comes at a time of innovation for McCormick, which plans to reopen for tours starting next month after a two-decade hiatus.
A full gift shop and welcome center adjacent to the industrial area should be completed in the coming weeks, while landscaping efforts continue to help dress up the area in anticipation of the increased public presence. In addition, on-site distilling of bourbon whiskey has begun with the final product to be marketed under the Holladay name, a nod to the founders of the distillery back in 1856.
“People have sort of lost the understanding and connection with the distillery, but we want to embrace the community,” Burnette said. “We want people to be able to come out and see who we are.”
Using locally produced grains and Weston spring water from the original recipe, the bourbon will be the first spirits made on site in 30 years. Some products of this process will be available sooner, but the first bourbon expects to take another four years to be on sale, according to Burnette.
The current distillation site originally served as a meat packing plant, but since the switch, McCormick has continually operated on the same site for more than 150 years. It’s purported to be the longest continually operational distillery on the same site in the United States.