Hennessy Revives Chess Series for Latest Wild Rabbit Campaign

June 28, 2022

LVMH-owned Cognac brand Hennessy U.S. is continuing in its pursuit of promoting Black excellence through a series of spots dedicated to Maurice Ashley, the world’s first Black chess grandmaster.

In continuation of a campaign launched in September 2020 (see story), the new iteration of the brand’s “Never Stop, Never Settle” mantra and Wild Rabbit campaign focuses on the lessons to be learned in the strategic game. A series of short advertisements depict young Black men spiritedly engaging in different chess games, learning new skills along the way.

“In this latest version of Hennessy’s “Wild Rabbit” campaign, the choice to feature chess Grandmaster Maurice Ashley veers from the brand’s typical selection of inspirational figures from sports or the music industry,” said Daymon Bruck, chief creative officer at The O Group, New York.

“By showcasing the world of chess, Hennessy evolves the celebrated traits typically depicted by popular culture,” he said. “Mental stamina, strategic thinking and intellectual acuity are requirements to achieve greatness in chess, but also in life.”

Lessons From A Grandmaster
In the new series of short vignettes, “Lessons from a Grandmaster,” Hennessy focuses on the grit and determination required of a successful chess player.

Some of these lessons include patience, vision, planning and leveraging the opportunities that lie within uncertainty. Each “lesson” has a dedicated spot, ranging from 5-30 seconds, and has a short tagline.

For instance, in “Vision,” the tagline reads: to defeat your opponent, you must become your opponent. In “Patience,” the tagline reads: patience is not a virtue, it is a weapon.

Maurice Ashley became the first Black chess grandmaster in 1999

The longer video, titled “Black Bear,” alludes to how Mr. Ashley got started in the world of competitive chess, beginning with his participation in New York’s Black Bear School of Chess, an unofficial group of young Black chess fans in Brooklyn who would gather each week to play.

In early 1999, Mr. Ashley defeated Adrian Negulescu becoming the first Black chess grandmaster in the world. That same year, he founded the Harlem Chess Center.

He was named the 2003 Grandmaster of the Year by the United States Chess Federation, and, in 2016, was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame.

Throughout his career, in addition to his major feats as an individual chess player, Mr. Ashley has become a three-time national championship coach, author, ESPN commentator, motivational speaker and iPhone app designer.

In Hennessy’s 2020 “Make Your Move” charity chess tournament, Wu-Tang Clan members RZA and GZA competed to go up against Mr. Ashley, with all proceeds going to Hennessy’s Unfinished Business initiative.

Black Excellence
A champion for Black lives, Hennessy continues to issue initiatives, programs and campaigns dedicated to spotlighting and promoting Black excellence.

Earlier this year, the Cognac brand celebrated African creative entrepreneurs as part of its #NeverStopNeverSettle platform, hoping to encourage creativity and dreaming in the face of adversity.

For the campaign, “All I Need,” the brand shared seven stories of individuals from Africa who are paving their way through the worlds of music, art, fashion and entertainment (see story).

In another campaign launched in April 2021, the LVMH spirits house tapped Grammy Award-winning rapper and songwriter Nas to celebrate Black legacy.

The short film, “Dear Destiny,” featured Nas writing and reading aloud a letter he wrote to his daughter, in which he reflects on the rich history of Black creators. The vignette highlighted Hennessy’s Never Stop Never Settle Society which invests in and empowers Black entrepreneurs who make lasting impacts on their communities (see story).

“Hennessy’s campaign seems to be built for longevity — as each of the campaign’s heroes have been selected across any point in history and from any field of human achievement,” The O Group’s Mr. Bruck said. “It is an excellent example of how flexible and successful the concept can be by taking a different path while still staying on message.”

Original article published in Luxury Daily, June 28, 2022

Hennessy first introduced Mr. Ashley's story through a marketing campaign in 2020.
Hennessy highlights Black excellence through Cognac and chess. Image credit: Hennessy