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April 18, 2024

S1E4 - Expérimenter et adapter avec John Cicero

Cette semaine, nous discutons avec John Cicero, vice-président de Team Enterprises. Nous avons parlé des campagnes extraordinaires de Team, de la façon dont John a pivoté...

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Logo blanc WISK-> All episodes <-

April 18, 2024

S1E4 - Expérimenter et adapter avec John Cicero

Cette semaine, nous discutons avec John Cicero, vice-président de Team Enterprises. Nous avons parlé des campagnes extraordinaires de Team, de la façon dont John a pivoté...

Lien vers le lecteur Podcast d'AppleLien vers le lecteur Podcast de SpotifyLien vers le lecteur Google Podcasts

Notes du spectacle

Episode Notes

John Cicero, Vice President of Team Enterprises, discusses his experience in the hospitality industry and the work of his experiential marketing agency. He shares campaigns he has worked on, such as Casadores BarSpar and Havana Club's Amparo, and the impact of on-premise and off-premise marketing. He also discusses the challenges faced during the pandemic and the future of activations in the industry.


  • Experiential marketing is a powerful tool for building brand affinity and engaging consumers.
  • On-premise marketing plays a crucial role in shaping consumer preferences and driving off-premise sales.
  • The pandemic has forced a shift to off-premise marketing and virtual experiences, but the industry is eager to return to in-person activations.
  • Hospitality professionals looking to transition to related roles should keep an eye on emerging opportunities and stay open to new possibilities.
  • The success of marketing campaigns depends on understanding consumer preferences and creating authentic experiences.


00:00 Introduction to Team Enterprises

07:33 Experiential Campaigns: Casadores BarSpar and Havana Club's Amparo

14:49 Balancing Creativity and Offending in Marketing

25:28 The Future of Activations in the Hospitality Industry

31:57 Last Day on Earth: Chosen Meal and Drink


Connect with John Cicero via Linkedin!

Follow Team Enterprises on Instagram!

Learn more about Team Enterprises!


Angelo Esposito [00:00:06]:

Welcome to Wisking it all with your host, Angelo Esposito, co founder of WISK.AI, a food and beverage intelligence platform. We're going to be interviewing hospitality professionals around the world to really understand how they do what they do, from chefs to owners, mixologists to bar managers, you name it. We want to provide you guys with a ton of value, anything hospitality related. Welcome to Wisking It All. Today we're here with John Cicero, vice president of Team Enterprises. John, thank you for being here.

John Cicero [00:00:46]:

Thank you for having me. You look great. You look like you're in sunny Florida.

Angelo Esposito [00:00:49]:

Yes, absolutely love it here. Good weather, good vibes, good people. So I'd love to start off with just a little background on what is team enterprises.

John Cicero [00:00:57]:

That's a great question. Team Enterprises is an experiential marketing agency that I've been with. It was 16 years last week, which is crazy to think about, but essentially we're a 360 experiential shop that does a series of things from large scale experiential, from big events, essentially, that aren't really happening for the time being. With the pandemic, we do national sampling campaigns, road tours. We do a lot of design work, like package design, that kind of thing, social media management, so on and so forth. So anything within the live space with consumers, but also with some of the support tools, like social, for example.

Angelo Esposito [00:01:32]:

Gotcha. And one of the things I found interesting kind of, about your background is that you started off in a hospitality space. Obviously, you're still very much involved, but transition to the marketing agency side of things, to people listening. On other episodes, we've chatted more about going from bartender or from busboy and working your way up to manager. But your trajectory is a little different going from bartender or other positions, which we'll get into to the marketing side. So I'd love to hear your story of how you got into hospitality in the first place.

John Cicero [00:01:59]:

So I went to college at University of Iowa, and right after that, I took a job in politics, actually, with Illinois House of Representatives in Chicago. So we're doing a lot of grassroots campaign management. I was a policy analyst as my actual title, but it was my, I call it my first job in marketing, just because it was, instead of a product, you have a person, obviously, and a lot of times the backing wins, if you will. So, yeah, it was a crash course in terms of, I guess, what was going to be down the road. But I did that for two years, and then I started working with sobee beverages at the time, if you remember the lizards, like the really sugary drink. They also had something called Sobe adrenaline rush, like, uh, it was pre Red Bull, but worked at them for three years and did national marketing campaigns. Did some music tours or motocross tour with them as like sponsorship support. And then from there traveled for a year and then came back overseas and took a job with team.

John Cicero [00:02:52]:

Moved to Cincinnati, Ohio and started doing. Working on the Miller Coors account, which is one of our biggest clients at team still to this day. Really started doing what? Managing Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio and managing a team of women that managed about 200 promo specialists per person, which made it very interesting. It was a lot of. Yeah, it was an overwhelming experience to say the least, but it was a good one. And something I learned, learned a lot from. And then moved to Chicago from there. Worked.

John Cicero [00:03:20]:

It was a promotion. Worked for the Miller Coors again, but did a lot of sports sponsorships with the White Sox, the Bears, and then after that moved to Miami for the first time. And this is really my first taste of the hospitality time industry is the way I know it today, just in terms of the ambassador. More on the spirit side of things. 42 below was acquired by Bacardi, which is the high end New Zealand vodka, which is still around, but it's hard to find. And launched a for Bacardi. It was one of the first brand ambassador programs that they had. And it was really fun just because we got the chance to go out and find some of the guys I'm still friends with to this day.

John Cicero [00:03:52]:

But I was tasked with going to find really irreverent, unique individuals that were going to represent this brand, because it was that kind of brand. They had artists, a circus performer, just a bunch of yahoos. It was a lot of fun and doing a lot of, let's call it non premise kind of events of getting a unique drinker at that point. So did that for two years and then we were acquired, actually team enterprises by MDC Partners, which is actually a company out of Toronto, based in New York, but one of the biggest holding companies in the world from an advertising perspective. They have, I want to say, about 35 agencies. We're one of the only experiential shops within that. Once that happened, I moved to Boulder, Colorado to start working out of the Chris reporter Bugusky office, which is a big above the line shop, which was really hot back then. Did a lot of stuff for like Burger King and American Express on and so forth.

John Cicero [00:04:42]:

Did the truth campaign against cigarettes and tobacco back in the day, which they were known for, but started working with them and harnessing their client base and building out experiential programs. As a result of that, which was modestly successful, we got some big wins out of it. And then after a year doing that, moved to New York and started working with Kershaw, Bond, Senegal and Partners, which another advertising firm doing something very similar work with a lot of like BMW worked with at the time, Vanguard financial Services. And then it was unique for me just because it allowed me to really get a glimpse of how above the line advertising worked, because at that point it was pretty much just like blocking and tackling on the ground experiential stuff that's not too sexy on its face, but a lot of fun. So this gave me a glimpse at the other side. And then after doing that for two years living in New York, I moved back to Miami for the second time, this is a about 1112 years ago now. And started officially the Bacardi advocacy team structure. So we launched with Bacardi portfolio managers, which had more account responsibilities, but these are, at the time it was more craft cocktail, boutique hotel, fine dining.

John Cicero [00:05:47]:

So like that kind of, that was our universe we're going after at the time. So really lended itself to like high end cocktail. And this is right at the time also when the cocktail renaissance had really started to come about where people noticed like, oh, people are paying attention to what they're drinking, the farm to table movement. And it really just made a lot of sense in terms of how to complement a lot of the efforts that Bacardi already had in the field, but it took a while to get there. I think we're there now. From a Bacardi standpoint that is. But just in terms of believing what is advocacy, what is trade advocacy, what does that mean? Because at the beginning, as a lot of people think, when you have ambassadors, that's not just all about going out and doing laybacks at the bar and spending a bunch of money and going to fancy dinners. That is part of it, because you're from a, I guess, entertainment standpoint, but it's not the goal, obviously, it's to drive recommendations for the brands and people have different ways of doing it.

John Cicero [00:06:35]:

So anyways, yeah, and then I did that for three years and became a vice president with team about three and a half years ago, managing not just the advocacy piece, but a lot of the other stuff we do. We have a pretty large client service team that works with each of the brands that builds up the programming, a national sampling team with 12,000 promo specialists that do more like the liquid, the lips, on and off premise. And then we have an incubation team that does a lot of our hand sell kind of marketing, if you will, so that the smaller brands we deal with, like Oxley Gin and Santa Teresa and so on and so forth. Yeah. Which brings me here today.

Angelo Esposito [00:07:07]:

Wow, that's awesome. And for a lot of our listeners, right, they're coming from the hospitality world, whether it's restaurant bars, hotels, we have people tuning in who are actual producers as well. So a big part of what you touched on is the experiential side of things. And so I'd love to hear some campaigns specifically on the spirit side, hospitality side that you've worked on and what was the outcome?

John Cicero [00:07:28]:

For sure, what I'm about to say, all these things are listed a cheap plug@teamenterprises.com. But just if they want, if people want to see case studies and videos and that kind of thing, but just because I might not do them justice, explaining them. This is the part I most missed through the pandemic, is the building these kind of large scale engagement programs, if you will, with the trade, just because obviously we can't do them for obvious reasons for the time being. But one of the biggest ones we did, and before I even go into these, we started looking at these as a way to scale our program. So it wasn't just going after one bartender at a time, which we still were, but it's a way to really go more of a mass approach and bring more and more people into our engagements. So one of the coolest ones, I think that we've done is Casadora's bar spar. At the beginning, it was called bartender boxing, but it was a time when that health and wellness really played a big role in the bartending community. I lost a good friend of mine, John Lemayer, and it was just a lot of, we started, people started realizing that the bartending lifestyle probably wasn't the healthiest lifestyle to be living and the ambassador lifestyle, really, but just to have a balance of some sort.

John Cicero [00:08:33]:

So one of the things we did was created this program where we partnered with a nonprofit within the boxing space, and we're putting bartenders through a rigorous twelve week training for boxing. So they would go, I think, three times a week and go through this. Obviously, the camaraderie piece that came from that was unbelievable. It wasn't trying to be a self serving campaign for Casadoras, although there it was, brought to you by Casadoras tequila. But it was something, I think, that generated a lot of affinity towards the brand because they did this. And one of the first ones that did something like this, in somewhat of unselfish way, was really more about giving back to the community. And then what we do is have each of the cities box against each other. So there'd be live boxing matches we'd invite the trade to in a very sweaty old boxing gym is pretty awesome.

John Cicero [00:09:18]:

And then we'd have everyone compete.

Angelo Esposito [00:09:19]:

I remember, actually, tales of the cat. I was gonna say real quick, actually, yeah. Tales of the Caucasus. I remember seeing. It was. It was intense, to say, at least, but super cool to see the different cities competing. And the other thing that was really cool was to see how small the hospitality scene is in a way. Right.

Angelo Esposito [00:09:34]:

Everyone's so close and kind of like, you mentioned that camaraderie from Vegas to Miami to Toronto, you name it. But seeing that connection between the hospitality industry was really neat.

John Cicero [00:09:44]:

It's one of my favorite parts of this industry. You know, what's happened over the last ten years, I think, is really given bartenders, bar backs, waitstaff, something to look at as a north star, how to move up. And you have situations where I think this is still blossoming, but that bartenders are becoming rock star, celebrity kind of chef format, the emerald legacies of the world, that kind of thing. But as far as the camaraderie that exists within that group is really unbelievable, which is awesome. But also, sometimes I feel like when we're running the programs we were just talking about, it's almost like we're speaking to ourselves. Sometimes we're talking to the same people. So it's like trying to our biggest test, how do we broaden that community and cast a larger net, so to speak?

Angelo Esposito [00:10:25]:

That makes a ton of sense. And I noticed on the website, one campaign that caught my eye was, I don't want to butcher it. I think it's called know your beer.

John Cicero [00:10:32]:


Angelo Esposito [00:10:33]:

That's pretty neat. Cause that was pretty much across all of the states, or almost all the states. No?

John Cicero [00:10:38]:

Yeah. So when I moved to Cincinnati, we were doing something called the Miller taste challenge, and it was basically pitting Miller Lite against Bud light in terms of the flavor of the two beers, in terms of doing a blind taste test. And Miller Lite was being chosen, I think, 80% of the time. So it was like we just kept going and going with this campaign. Know your b was an evolution of that in a way, but it didn't just polarize it to Miller Lite versus Bud light, but allowed consumers to have different touch points within the Miller Coors portfolio of how they can get involved. So we'd have, be it off premise or on premise where someone would come up to the table and obviously they have the entire line there, or portfolio offering and you can figure out what your taste profile is and really explore different things. You probably wouldn't have. Obviously, the beer category in general has exploded.

John Cicero [00:11:24]:

And I think I'm even confused sometimes of what's new out there and what I like. That's why I go back to the Miller high life and Coors light sometimes the basics.

Angelo Esposito [00:11:32]:

That's awesome. And then I want to touch on one last r1 quick, just because it really caught Maya. And I'm curious just to get some insights and share this with our guests. It was a campaign on Havana club and it was a quite an interesting campaign. It really caught my eye. Apparently it was hugely successful. So I'd love for you to maybe just share on how you guys came up with that concept and maybe share the concept itself. And what were the outcomes of that.

John Cicero [00:11:55]:

Campaign if you didn't get a chance to experience Amparo, which is what it was called, which is Jose Arshabala's wife, Jose Archibald was the founder of Havana Club in Cuba. But this campaign was an interesting task. It's one of the coolest things we've done as an agency just in general. But we were able to create an immersive theater experience. Actually took over an old 1920s building downtown Miami and converted into Cuba. Old school, 1930s, forties Cuba. We created this experience where we pretty much built out the entire space. We sold tickets for.

John Cicero [00:12:30]:

They were going at one point for 100, $5200 and selling out every day, which is amazing. And this ran, we were supposed to be a one month show which ended up going for just shy of a year. And I'll go into the story behind it. But the coolest thing about it was it was an experiential campaign that was paying off itself. So it wasn't just a one way thing. We're fueling kind of the activation. It was. We're covering the cost of the activation because it was extremely expensive.

John Cicero [00:12:56]:

Between, I think we had every show, there's 30 actors, we had a bartenders, bar backs, a restaurant pop up, so on and so forth. But it was quite the ordeal. But the story behind it. And if no one knows a Havana club story, please check it out. Just if you Google Bacardi and Pernod Ricard Havana Club, you'll get so much info about the story behind that and it's been a 30 year, 30 plus year legal battle in terms of you still can't buy the Purnoa Havana club in the United States, and you, you can only buy the Bacardi Havana club in the United States. And the reasons behind that, in terms of the embargo, whatnot, is pretty interesting. But with Lamparo specifically, it was how do we, with Bacardi's Havana club of rum, that the bartending community just automatically thinks, the cuban Havana club, how do we engage them in an authentic way where it tells the story of. Basically the premise of Amparo is that when Castro nationalized the country, he kicked out Jose al Shabbala and stole Havana Club and started producing it, and then partnered with Pernod Ricard, formed a company called Cuban Export and started producing that globally.

John Cicero [00:13:58]:

And Jose Arshabala died as a car mechanic in Miami just because he never really invented himself. But he sold the recipe to Fukundo Bacardi and they started making his rum with his recipe. So that's like huge rift or between the two. And it's extremely complex and interesting and insane, but it was a really cool campaign.

Angelo Esposito [00:14:18]:

That's crazy. I never knew that story. I'm definitely going to Google that after this chat. That's quite interesting to say the least. One thing that came to mind was, when it comes to marketing, branding, a lot of these liquor companies, it's really important to try to be right, number one, top of mind. And in a day and age where I think people get easily offended, my question to you is, how do you kind of balance that, being number one, bringing those campaigns to life, while also treading that line of not offending anyone, which is pretty much impossible these days. But how do you tread that line and how do you look at that? Because I can imagine things evolved over the last ten years in terms of how these campaigns are perceived.

John Cicero [00:14:56]:

What do you mean by offending anyone? Sorry, just so I'm clear. Yeah, yeah.

Angelo Esposito [00:14:59]:

No, when I say offending, I think that when I think about certain brands in certain campaigns, things that aren't offensive, I think to anyone. But today, as political correctness kind of gets more and more limelight, it's almost impossible not to offend someone. So I'm not talking about something obviously that may be offensive even ten years ago. Yeah, more from a culture perspective, people are so easily offended today that how do you guys, as a brand, come up with campaigns while knowing you gotta just try not to offend anyone, knowing that people are easily offended.

John Cicero [00:15:28]:

Got it. We have the luxury as team so we being that we're an experiential shop that works with Bacardi, we get to play more of the fun zone. Right. We're not building out a lot of the large scale experiential, big campaign commercials. What we do primarily is once those campaigns happen, once the more of the creative above the line shops will come up with the brand ethos, if you will, and what they're trying to achieve and who their consumer is and all that kind of stuff, we come in and we would build out what that campaign looks like on the ground. So the good part is we don't have to deal with the political bullshit, if you will, behind a lot of that. But I hear you saying it's, in today's world, it's hard not to offend someone. And it's interesting because you have to tread so lightly in some cases where you, I think you risk not actually saying anything at all.

Angelo Esposito [00:16:14]:

Exactly, exactly. And I think with that, it limits creativity to a certain level. Right. There's no creativity goes up. The more you try to check off the list of not offending anyone, the more you start limiting. And like you said, the danger of potentially not saying anything in the end. One thing I'd love to get your perspective on, right, because team and yourself are really strong on all these experiential marketing campaigns. So I'd love to get your perspective, and I'm sure you probably chatted to a lot of people about this, but how do you guys deal with this lockdown, this pandemic, knowing that a lot of your marketing campaigns are on premise are experiential.

Angelo Esposito [00:16:49]:

How are you guys adapting?

John Cicero [00:16:51]:

Yeah, it's a great question. We are doing our best. Yeah. So in a lot of ways, I would say a large part of what we do for Bacardi and for other brands as well, pre pandemic and Bacardi currently is having ambassador structure that's in the fields, more or less, those folks in the markets that represent the brands, in some cases the portfolio, depending on the role we're talking about. One of the things we're doing with those individuals, and obviously this is changing by the minute, by the city, state, county, so on and so forth. So it's been very challenging, obviously, especially in the last week. You could even look at just in terms of what's happening in Oregon, what's about to happen in New York, what happened in California, especially with the season kind of element coming into the mix here, we're constantly changing and adapting to what our people should be doing. So a big piece of what we've done and a lot of companies have done this.

John Cicero [00:17:41]:

It's nothing unique, but it shifting to the off premise because that's where a lot of the businesses right now, instead of going into and dealing directly with bartenders, we're having people go into off premise and dealing more with that side of the business. Just again, because that's where things are spiking. I think one of the things we've done, which I'm proud of, and a lot of companies have done this as well, but in terms of the hospitality support, in terms of buying meals for people, we're doing initiative for the holidays and a lot of people are really still struggling right now. I think some people forget that, especially if you work on the brand side, you don't see sometimes, unless you're really immersed in the industry and have friends that own bars or restaurants, that people aren't making ends meet and they're really deciding, hey, should I open right now? Should I not open? I already opened once. We had to shut down that kind of thing. So it's really been challenging to adapt in some ways because things are changing so quickly. But one of the things we've done as an agency, obviously from a virtual perspective, we have something called the virtual content studio which we developed. And it's essentially a way to have a virtual town hall or meeting, whatever it is, in a way where it's from a creative perspective, it's super unique.

John Cicero [00:18:51]:

So basically we send, there's a six foot green screens that we can send anywhere in the world and you can get everyone in the same meeting and it looks like you're all either at the same table or at the same bar. And it's pretty cool just from like when you're doing something, especially in the virtual world where people are not getting on planes, they have these, you know, national meetings. It's a really cool way to bring all that together and something that people are interested in because as I'm sure you are as well, the fatigue going on right now with Zoom in Microsoft.

Angelo Esposito [00:19:19]:

Teams, I can imagine you probably have had 600 Zoom calls in the last few months or something.

John Cicero [00:19:24]:

On that note though, so Zoom just created a new platform called Onzoom. This is just about three weeks ago, and Bacardi is the official food and beverage partner of Onzoom. So on Zoom is essentially a way, you've seen this, I'm sure, with Amazon experiences or on Zoom is essentially a way to monetize their user base and bring these experiences to life. So one of the things that we're doing as teams to help support this initiative between Bacardi and Zoom or on Zoom is to have bartenders deliver different modules, whatever that may be, like a low abv cocktails or whatever that is. And we're able to pay the bartenders to further time to generate additional income for them. So it's something. We're still testing it. We're.

John Cicero [00:20:05]:

I think we're on number six right now, six of eight in terms of the pilot. And then we're going to go into the more of the phase one, if you will.

Angelo Esposito [00:20:11]:

That's really cool. Yeah. One thing that comes to mind is a lot of people during this pandemic have had to deal with letting people go and then hiring back and then letting go again. And I think it's a super tricky thing. But I think, you know, our listeners could definitely benefit from getting some insight just from your experience. You manage quite a lot of people, to say the least. How do you guys deal with that dynamic of letting people go, knowing that you do want them back and knowing that it's out of your control?

John Cicero [00:20:36]:

Yeah. So Bacardi is an organization. And just so the listeners know, I am a VP at team and I help manage overall everything on Bacardi. So I keep using Bacardi as a reference, but that's the reason why. But Bacardi is, has been an unbelievable partner throughout this experience where they've really stood behind us as an agency. So a lot of like, spirits, agency relationships. If you look at the beginning, I'm not going to go through name names of agencies and suppliers, but a lot of them let go of their agencies off the bat. So they saw this coming on premise shutdown.

John Cicero [00:21:10]:

We don't need you guys anymore. We'll call you we need you kind of thing. And Bacardi's did the opposite. And I'm not just saying this because they're a client. I really believe this. They've been a client of ours for 30 years, and it's something that we're proud of as an agency. They have someone that long, but also that we're still evolving with them. And it's a pretty cool relationship that I've really enjoyed being a part of.

John Cicero [00:21:29]:

But to answer your question, they've stood behind us. It's allowed us to make different decisions. So instead of laying people off in a lot of cases, which we did have to do some layoffs in terms of producers or more of the large scale experiential kind of resources that we had, which is just something that's not happening right now. But most, the majority of what we had to deal with was furloughs. And for those of you that don't know what a furlough is, it's essentially a way to keep an employee retained. But it's a pause, if you will. But we're still able to pay for their health benefits, which enter, obviously in the pandemic during this is extremely important, especially those with families, but also keep their health insurance, but their benefits going and then we're ready to bring them back. It's just pressing play and they jump back in.

John Cicero [00:22:12]:

So it's not, that makes it any easier because their compensation stops during that furlough period. Just from a business standpoint, it didn't make a lot of sense to keep them on for depending on the role in the market, kind of what I was saying before. But yeah, it's been, we've tried to be obviously, taking this very personally and be very specific and think through a lot of these things just so we're doing the right thing for the right reasons. And obviously Bacardi is the largest family owned spirits company in the world, and they really perpetuate this la grand familia atmosphere, just like we're all one family. And that does translate to its partners as well as agency partners. So that sense, they're putting their money where their mouth is, which is pretty cool to see.

Angelo Esposito [00:22:52]:

That is awesome. That's awesome to hear. And I think we spoke about the good stuff, right? We spoke about some of the good stuff in terms of the campaigns, but without naming names. But I'd love to hear maybe from your perspective, if you can, maybe what was the biggest fumble you've had in a campaign, like something that you didn't expect. If there's anything that our listeners can listen to on the marketing side, something you didn't expect, that really caught you by surprise. And when you know you can, you'll never forget, so to speak.

John Cicero [00:23:17]:

I don't know if it was a campaign fumble just in terms of the ideation of the direction we went. Usually we have so many people working on these things or that we have enough experience, we're not going to put something out there that's complete disaster. But one of the things that I think is a really funny story and crazy story is during Amparo, which we're referencing before. Again, this is a live immersive experience that happened Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights in Miami. We did two shows per night, and during one of the shows we had a bunch of the actors were dressed up as cuban militants from back in the day, like the green fatigues and the old rifles, which obviously are just dummy rifles, but they look real. And it's downtown Miami, right off Biscayne. So it's a high traffic area where if you didn't know what was going on, it was right behind checkers, if you know where that is, on Biscayne. And somebody was walking with their groceries and saw there was like an outside staircase and saw a bunch of guys and women running up the stairs with these rifles.

John Cicero [00:24:12]:

So they call the police, and the police send the SWAT team. I was not there this night, thank God, because this would have been a disaster. But I heard about the next day, but the SWAT team comes with full SWat van and the whole deal. Turn all the lights on, shut down the show. All these people paid good money for these tickets, and everyone had to go outside until they realized what was going on and there was not an actual threat to anybody and let them back in. I think we gave everyone their money back and invited a different show, but it was one of those things. Just like Jesus, this is what we do for a living.

Angelo Esposito [00:24:41]:

That's crazy. Wow, what a story. That's unreal.

John Cicero [00:24:45]:

Yeah. But as far as the campaigns go, usually we get ahead of it enough. And I'm not just saying, because I don't want to say a fumble. If one comes to mind, I'll bring it up, but usually we'll make adjustments, even when we put something out there. A sampling campaign in the first week, we're getting feedback from the field of, hey, this thing doesn't work, or this is not engaging, or people are not responding, or whatever the case may be, down to the outfits we're using or the giveaways or what have you.

Angelo Esposito [00:25:11]:

Yeah, that makes sense. And from your perspective, you have a lot of experience in the industry. Where do you see activations heading in the future?

John Cicero [00:25:18]:

So I'm a glass half full kind of guy. So I'm going to preface what I'm about to say. I think people are eager to still be involved with experiences. I don't think large scale experiential is going to go away. I think it is going to take some time. Obviously, the vaccine piece of this, and then the consumer confidence piece after that, which is going to, I think, take a little more time. Probably the next six months after the vaccine comes out, where people feel comfortable, like, hey, I feel comfortable going out to big events again, but I think people are yearning to go. And I could see it in Miami is all open right now, which is crazy given what's happened to the rest of the country.

John Cicero [00:25:53]:

But I think it's also because people want to feel like they are going back to normal again. I'm speaking for myself and the people I've been speaking to. I think people are now getting fatigued from Zoom calls, but they're getting fatigue for not being able to have that social interaction. So I think things will come back. We're not being naive either when I say I'm being optimistic. Like we're obviously looking at this very seriously and saying what is realistic in terms of when we can actually look at this piece of our business coming back. And I think for not only the business aspect, but for just this is what we if you're in this business, this is what you love to do. One of the reasons I do this is because kind of building out those kind of campaigns and having that social interaction which has been avoid for some time.

John Cicero [00:26:34]:

But yeah, I do think things will come back and just kind of take some time.

Angelo Esposito [00:26:37]:

I can totally see that. And honestly, most people in the hospitality space are really in it for the passion, and that's the premise of this podcast Wisking It All, right. They put everything on the line to work in this industry and most of its passion first and hopefully money second. But it's a tough industry, so definitely respect the passion. Do you have any closing advice for people who are in the industry and maybe looking to branch off into something related but less, less direct restaurant bar?

John Cicero [00:27:03]:

Yeah, I guess my initial answer would be email or call me if we have a role available, what we could talk about it. But yeah, there's so many opportunities out there, and especially coming out of the pandemic, I think there's going to be even more opportunities that come out of this in terms of roles that didn't exist before. So I think just keeping your options open and keeping an eye on how we come out of the pandemic and then what is the new normal look like? As much as I'm saying I think all the events and people are going to start going back out. I think there's going to be other industries that are created out of this in the hospitality space. So I think just keeping an eye on what that looks like and keeping your options open is the best way to do it. And it's something where a lot of those people within the ambassador space that we have hired primarily are from bars and restaurants. Sometimes we get them from other brands. But obviously I think getting someone involved with your organization or your family that doesn't have a notion of what that looks like, I think they're going to be more excited and less jaded in the industry to go into something like this.

John Cicero [00:28:04]:

Yeah, but yeah, call me or text me or email me as the easiest way.

Angelo Esposito [00:28:08]:

Love it. And we'll put all your details on this podcast as well when we release this episode. So definitely people will have a way to reach you. One question that I had personally was I've always wondered how off premise is a large percentage, or in many cases a majority of sales of a liquor brand. But I've always wondered how much of on premise sales slash marketing will then affect or trickle down to off premise. What does that split look like? And then do people make that decision where they drink a certain vodka because that's the one they chose at the liquor store? Or is it because they've seen it at restaurant XYZ and now they're buying that at the liquor store? Right, like the chicken and egg. What comes first? Are people making those decisions from that on premise experience? Or do you think it's more about that just off premise marketing?

John Cicero [00:28:54]:

Yeah. No, the old saying goes that brands are built in the on premise, which I believe that as well. When you're at a bar, this is not new news, but what you're buying. You might buy something different if you're at a liquor store. Like, it's more of the badge value, obviously, and you feel more proud ordering it or drinking it based on the brand messaging, what they stand for, what they invest in, so on and so forth. Obviously the taste profile has a big piece of this as well as what you're drinking, as far as the spirit itself or beer wine or whatever. But yeah, as far as the off premise is obviously the bigger volume play, but as far as the. Where the.

John Cicero [00:29:27]:

I think the larger opportunity from a spirits beer wine perspective is all primarily spirits in wine, but is in the on premise. So initially when this happened, obviously what's happened with the pandemic, there's been a huge shift in at home drinking and entertaining. We've seen a lot of what people are buying with a liquor store or drizzly or any other e commerce platform is the brands that they know. So the brands that they trust. So we've seen a lot of the ones, for example, like Grey Goose has been up just because people know what that is as opposed maybe a no name vodka they wouldn't have known before. I just read an article about a Jose Cuervo, which they're definitely declining and now they're spiking just because I think a lot of that has to do with to go. Cocktails and bars are used. They don't need to put a name brand in a lot of these things on.

John Cicero [00:30:13]:

They're just using what they can from a value perspective. And Dory of Scotch is another one where the numbers were declining drastically and now it's stabilized. And that's because of innovations and other things. But I think it's also because it's a trusted brand and people have known it for years, and it's something, they know what they're getting it, and it gives them a little bit of comfort through a very uncertain time.

Angelo Esposito [00:30:32]:

And have you seen certain trends categorically? Just off the top of my head, I don't know if this, I haven't actually seen the numbers, but from a restaurant perspective, Mezcal has been gaining a ton of popularity. I feel like in the last year or so, correct me if I'm wrong, but have you seen any category trends like that?

John Cicero [00:30:47]:

I think mezcal for sure has been spiking. I think bourbon continues to spike. This is something that's been going on for a little while now, but I think it's actually even escalated with the pandemic was low ebv cocktails, because I think of people at home, if you're at home all day, you're drinking at different times of the day. And I know a lot of friends and myself included, especially not so much now, but at the beginning of the pandemic, the first six months drinking at 05:00 p.m. Was definitely condoned. If you're doing that, you got to drink something on the lower abv side. So I think those kind of things and people making drinks at home, just in terms of we're seeing on the Bacardi side what they're purchasing from like a vermouth, prosecco, so on and so forth in those categories, obviously, Mickey Martinis and Negronis and so on and so forth.

Angelo Esposito [00:31:28]:

Gotcha. And so one of the ways we love to end off the podcast is with a segment called last Day on Earth. So, John, question for you is it's your last day on earth. What would be your chosen meal and your chosen drink?

John Cicero [00:31:42]:

My chosen meal would be, let's start with the drink, because I think about the meal for a second, but I. My chosen drink would be a 50 50 Oxley martini up with a twist, stirred, not shaken. And I would probably have some kind of sushi dinner, probably a lot of hand rolls. I'm guessing that's John.

Angelo Esposito [00:32:02]:

It was awesome. Let him prepare. Let me think.

John Cicero [00:32:04]:

I didn't see that.

Angelo Esposito [00:32:05]:

Honestly. I think, yeah. Okay. I think for me, it would probably be homemade pasta dish from my mom. Just because it'd be that nostalgic feeling and eating that amazing italian sauce. I think it probably be some type of pasta dish. And in terms of a drink, yeah, that's a good one. I'm a big fan of whiskey and scotch in general, or even bourbon.

Angelo Esposito [00:32:25]:

Maybe even something on the rocks. Yeah, something on the rocks. I'm trying to. Yeah, yeah. I don't know. Really, honestly, something on the rocks. But in terms of the meal, it'd definitely be a nice home cooked dish. Specifically pasta from the mom, I think.

John Cicero [00:32:39]:

Fair enough. That makes sense. Sorry, mom, I didn't say this.

Angelo Esposito [00:32:43]:

Awesome. John, thank you so much for joining us on this episode of Wisking It All. It was great chatting with you and really, I think our guests are going to get some great insights from the. From the chat we had. So I just want to thank you for being on the show.

John Cicero [00:32:55]:

Thank you for your time, man. It's great to see you. That was fun.

Angelo Esposito [00:32:57]:

Great to see you as well. Take care, John.

Meet Your Host & Guest

John Cicero, Vice-President at Team Enterprises

John Cicero is an accomplished Vice President of Content with a proven track record in the marketing and advertising industry. With a wealth of experience, he has honed his expertise in digital strategy, sales, management, and marketing, demonstrating a keen understanding of the evolving media landscape. John's proficiency in digital marketing further enhances his ability to drive impactful campaigns and initiatives. His strong leadership skills and strategic mindset make him a valuable asset in navigating the dynamic challenges of the digital age. With a commitment to excellence and innovation, John Cicero continues to make significant contributions to the field, shaping the future of content creation and digital marketing strategies.


Meet Angelo Esposito, the Co-Founder and CEO of WISK.ai, Angelo's vision is to revolutionize the hospitality industry by creating an inventory software that allows bar and restaurant owners to streamline their operations, improve their margins and sales, and minimize waste. With over a decade of experience in the hospitality industry, Angelo deeply understands the challenges faced by bar and restaurant owners. From managing inventory to tracking sales to forecasting demand, Angelo has seen it all firsthand. This gave him the insight he needed to create WISK.ai.

Recent Episodes

S1E4 - Expérimenter et adapter avec John Cicero

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Notes du spectacle

Episode Notes

John Cicero, Vice President of Team Enterprises, discusses his experience in the hospitality industry and the work of his experiential marketing agency. He shares campaigns he has worked on, such as Casadores BarSpar and Havana Club's Amparo, and the impact of on-premise and off-premise marketing. He also discusses the challenges faced during the pandemic and the future of activations in the industry.


  • Experiential marketing is a powerful tool for building brand affinity and engaging consumers.
  • On-premise marketing plays a crucial role in shaping consumer preferences and driving off-premise sales.
  • The pandemic has forced a shift to off-premise marketing and virtual experiences, but the industry is eager to return to in-person activations.
  • Hospitality professionals looking to transition to related roles should keep an eye on emerging opportunities and stay open to new possibilities.
  • The success of marketing campaigns depends on understanding consumer preferences and creating authentic experiences.


00:00 Introduction to Team Enterprises

07:33 Experiential Campaigns: Casadores BarSpar and Havana Club's Amparo

14:49 Balancing Creativity and Offending in Marketing

25:28 The Future of Activations in the Hospitality Industry

31:57 Last Day on Earth: Chosen Meal and Drink


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