Over five years ago, Cognac brand Hennessy started their “Wild Rabbit” campaign, spotlighting trailblazers like Erykah Badu and Martin Scorsese and pushing the mantra, “Never stop. Never settle.”
This Sunday, the brand will take the campaign to a whole new level as they will air their first ever game day commercial during the US Super Bowl.
Narrated by hip-hop legend Nas, the TVC, titled “Major,” brings to life the remarkable, yet widely unknown, story of cycling champion Marshall “Major” Taylor.
In honour of the campaign, Hennessy has created the “Major” cocktail to toast to those who “Never stop. Never settle.”
- 1.5oz Hennessy V.S
- 0.5oz grapefruit juice
- 0.5oz lemon juice
- 0.5oz honey syrup
- 3 basil leaves
Garnish: Grapefruit wedge
Add all ingredients to a shaker tin with ice, shake to chill, strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a grapefruit wedge.
A bit about the man
Marshall “Major” Taylor may not be a household name even among cycling fans, but a little more than a century ago he was known as the world’s greatest athlete. And his story is enjoying a revival thanks to Hennessy.
Taylor was not only the first African-American cyclist to take a World Champion title, but he was also the second African-American athlete to win a world title in any sport.
He began racing professionally in 1896 at age 18, and three years later won the sprint event at World Championships in Montreal. Though he earned global fame, he regularly faced racial discrimination and was barred from races in many parts of the South. Still, he went on to set several track world records, eventually retiring to Massachusetts at age 32.
“In a word, I was a pioneer, and therefore had to blaze my own trail,” Taylor, who was nicknamed the “Black Cyclone,” once said of his athletic success.
A bit about the campaign
So how did a track racer from the turn of the 20th century end up starring in a series of big-budget TV ads today?
Taylor’s story is the third to be highlighted in Hennessy’s “Wild Rabbit” campaign, which “underscores what it is that drives some to greater heights… constantly pushing themselves to the next level, seeking something beyond the perfection of the moment.”
Filmed in Ukraine, the new crop of ad spots features Melvyn Akins, a London-based track racer, portraying Taylor. “[Akins] raced flat-out for four days straight in these awe-inspiring settings,” Giles Woodyer, Hennessy’s senior vice president for the US, told Adweek.
“He was so inspired that he raced from dawn to dusk to make certain that he did justice to Taylor’s story. That was a truly moving experience.”
A bit about the film
The TVC was only the beginning of celebrating Marshall “Major” Taylor’s drive, determination and ongoing quest to break barriers. In an effort to further share this universally inspiring story, Hennessy partnered with ESPN to develop a powerful short-form documentary, The Six Day Race: The Story of Marshall “Major” Taylor.
The film features commentary from BMXer Nigel Sylvester and road cyclist Ayesha McGowan, who might very well become the first African-American woman to go pro.