Hennessy VS campaign tells the story of the first Black chess grandmaster

Droga5 continues long-running Wild Rabbit campaign that highlights what drives people to succeed.

Hennessy VS is introducing the next evolution of its ongoing What’s Your Wild Rabbit campaign, which debuted in 2012, presenting a chess player’s journey to achieving grandmaster status.  

The first Black grandmaster, Maurice Ashley, is featured in a five-minute documentary, two-minute hero spot and a set of 15-second spots, that tell a story of intellectual achievement and chess-world success. Ashley’s Wild Rabbit, Hennessy-speak for inner drive and pursuit of excellence, was to master this complex game and, in so doing, he broke a 70-year barrier by becoming the first Black chess grandmaster, since the top title was first granted by the International Chess Federation (FIDE).

Agency Droga5 had a rich story to mine for the campaign. Ashley developed his chess game circa 1990s Brooklyn. The Jamaican-born player competed against neighborhood chess players who were part of a vibrant group, The Black Bear School of Chess, who waged vigorous competitions in Prospect Park.

By 1999, Ashley attained his record-making grandmaster status, marking a moment in chess lore and Black history. 

Droga5’s Wild Rabbit campaign for Hennessy has profiled multicultural heroes of sports and entertainment, with the takeaway, “never stop, never settle.” 

Ashley’s intellectual achievement is an important story to tell in communities that can be overshadowed by their dominance in athletics and entertainment. Hennessy and Droga5 wanted to evolve to recognize achievements in intellect and education. Previous What’s Your Wild Rabbit profiles have included boxer Manny Pacquiao and rapper Nas. 

In profiling Ashley, the new campaign, which was directed by Daniel Wolfe, also captures a sliver of New York City history. 

The production is richly detailed, bringing back the streets of Brooklyn in the 1990s. For example, Droga5 used a crackling, mixtape soundtrack, the fashions of the times and even recreated a Brooklyn bodega of the day.

The attention to detail was such that “parts of the films were shot on cameras and film stocks dating from the time,” said Thom Glover, CD at Droga5, in a statement. “The street art that appears in many of the shots are all originals, created by Brooklyn graffiti artist David ‘Chino’ Villorente, a legend of the ’90s.” 

The new Hennessy spots are launching as Belvedere Vodka is unveiling a set of high-fashion spots that give glamour to authenticity and heritage.

Meanwhile, Grey Goose vodka tapped the star of HBO’s Insecure, Yvonne Orji, to use her Instagram to show tennis fans its special Honey Deuce cocktail. Orji showed her social-media followers how to recreate Arthur Ashe Stadium vibes at home, as the actual event was closed to spectators due to COVID-19.

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