The Super Bowl is over. Major League Baseball has yet to begin. The NBA is focused on its upcoming All-Star break. For fans of professional sports leagues who participate in the $3 billion dollar business of fantasy sports leagues, the middle of February can be a bit of a bore.
For members of one fantasy league, however, February is prime-time. That league is the Skinnygirl Cocktails Celebrity Fantasy League.
Starting Jan. 9 and running through March 11, the fantasy league is timed to coincide with the Hollywood awards season, covering events like the Golden Globes, the Grammy's and the Academy Awards. For this league, February is the playoffs of pop culture.
"For many women, awards season is their Super Bowl. So they are hosting gatherings with their friends, talking 'who wore what' on the red carpet, and using [award] shows as an excuse to get together with their friends to gossip and cocktail," said Megan Frank, director of Skinnygirl Cocktails. "It was natural for us to leverage award season and a good way for Skinnygirl to integrate into an occasion that our target consumer is already engaging in."
In its first season, the fantasy league is a way for Skinnygirl to increase consumer engagement with one of the fastest growing brands in the alcohol space.
Acquired by Beam in March 2011 for a reported $100 million, Skinnygirl Cocktails posted 72 percent growth in net sales volume in 2012, with the brand growing to sales of 1 million cases from 100,000 cases in the prior year.
Fueling the growth was an expanded product line. Skinnygirl moved beyond the ready-to-serve Margarita business, and introduced two other product lines, Skinnygirl Wine and Skinnygirl Vodka.
Still, for all the expansion, the Skinnygirl brand still has room to grow.
"We're a relatively new brand," Frank said, "our awareness is about 50 percent and we also know that our number one source of driving awareness is through word of mouth."
"Social media plays a very natural role in helping to grow awareness and particularly with [the fantasy league], we see girlfriends engaging and sharing with their friends," she said. "So it's a great way to spread the word-of-mouth for the brand and build awareness."
The challenge in the Skinnygirl Cocktails Celebrity Fantasy League is to draft a team of celebrities that will earn points by their "performance" during awards season. Celebs accrue points for things like appearing on the cover of weekly celebrity-focused magazines like People or InTouch or by winning an award.
But there are also points for "good behavior," which encompasses such things as a marriage proposal (5 points) or landing on the cover of a magazine (10 points). Negative behavior, like announcing a stint in rehab (-10 points) or getting arrested (-5 points) will cost you.
The Skinnygirl Cocktails Celebrity Fantasy League is part of a larger program the brand looking to build around awards season, including a media partnership with E! which includes TV, digital and social elements as well as consumer sweepstakes and in-store retail support.
The complex nature of liquor laws prevents the brand from offering any sort of prize for the team with the best performance in the league, so for now it's all just for bragging rights among friends. But the brand is already seeing a pick-up in engagement with the brand on Facebook and social media.
"It really helps connect Skinnygirl with our fans in a meaningful way," Frank said. "Bringing this type of content to them is allowing us to take part in conversations that are fans are already having on Facebook and social media. So for us it makes a ton of sense."
-By CNBC's Tom Rotunno; Follow him on Twitter @TomRotunno
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