Liquor brands target tech crowd at SXSW, before they're rich

At "The Macallan Masters of Photography: Elliott Erwitt" at Leica Gallery in Los Angeles.
Chris Weeks | Getty Images

Techies are the new rock stars—or at least that's how some premium liquor brands see them.

Whether it's sponsoring parties—like those during South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi)—or hosting private tastings, more premium liquor labels are targeting the tech crowd, hoping their spirit will become the drink of choice for members of this influential demographic.

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Macallan, which is owned by Scotch whisky company The Edrington Group, is one brand aggressively working to capture techies' attention.

Macallan, which is hosting tasting events during SXSWi, wants to hook entrepreneurs while they are young so that when they strike it big, they'll already be a loyal consumer.

"We are aware that a lot of brands target the rock 'n' roll lifestyle, but we are definitely trying to target the more discerning consumers," said Charlie Whitfield, the U.S. brand ambassador for Macallan.

"We associate Macallan with leaders of particular fields. And obviously, SXSW is a hotbed of future leaders. Innovation is driving the whole business world and there could be people at South by Southwest who will be the next founder of the company that takes over Facebook."

Macallan—which has an internal program that focuses on how to specifically market to the tech industry—began direct marketing to the tech crowd about two years ago, as the company began to notice the whisky-drinking demographic was changing.

"We try to stay away from the stereotype of an old man sipping scotch. We are trying to find the next generation of the Macallan drinker. And the next generation is a wider audience, it's young professionals in their late 20s early 30s who enjoy the finer things in life," Whitfield said.

Other liquor brands have noticed as well. Ketel One and Bombay Sapphire are among others trying to shape the drinking habits of young technologists.

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Premium vodka brand Ketel One is hosting its first SXSW party during the interactive portion of the conference, and it's also sponsoring a party in partnership with Ashton Kutcher's venture capital firm A-Grade Investments.

"We're hosting the event during the interactive part because of the tech-specific audience that will be there," a spokesperson for the brand said. The company's parties aim to teach attendees about the "authenticity and heritage" of the brand.

While Bombay Sapphire isn't sponsoring any events at SXSWi, the company is also aiming for young techies.

"This is a group of people that are pushing the world forward and defining culture," said Ned Duggan, brand director for Bombay Sapphire. "They are driving the movement that is shaping the world."

The gin brand is the sponsor of a new program in the Tribeca Film Festival—called Storyscapes—that showcases new trends in digital media.

Besides hosting events at a big conference like SXSWi, Macallan also often hosts tastings at start-ups and large tech firms as well as sponsoring parties for the start-up community.

Whitfield said during these events, a brand ambassador is always present so that they can answer questions and explain the differences between the scotches. It's almost like a lesson in taste for those future business execs, he said.

"Once they understand it, they can enjoy it more. And in the future, when they are taking their clients out to a business dinner they can impress them, as well," Whitfield said. "It's a fun way to learn about something."

"And if they found the next Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, we hope they drink a Macallan to celebrate," Whitfield added.

By CNBC's Cadie Thompson. Follow her on Twitter @CadieThompson.