Milestones gets a hand from Ryan Reynolds to boost happy hour

The restaurant admits ad spend is lighter, but hopes the A-lister's Aviation Gin will help bar business.

Milestones is looking to “gin up” interest in its happy hours, hitching its wagon to Ryan Reynolds’ star power.

The restaurant chain is announcing a new happy hour menu, partnering with the Deadpool star for two cocktail promos. These feature his Aviation Gin offered at friendly prices during select hours of the day – the “Happier Hour” – and include deals on dine-in (where local health regulations allow) and takeout options (Milestones is currently only offering a select range of wine and beer cans for takeout orders).

Milestones is launching a trio of videos across its digital and social channels to amplify the move, with Reynolds’ voice, and featuring hands doodling on a coaster. Though not called out specifically, they’re not just any hands: they’re those of Canadian artist Mutant 101, who did the official art and drawings that appeared in Deadpool.

According to Jimmy duDomaine, VP of marketing at Milestones, the campaign is a great way to boost the happy hour positioning the brand has always tried to reinforce, but to also bolster the bar side of its business, which has not been immune to struggles across bars and hospitality due to the COVID-19 pandemic. DuDomaine says Stunt 101′s illustration style and “drawing in real time” was a unique way to bring the campaign to life, as if the artist were sitting at a table at Milestones and sketching.

The ad spend on this digital and social campaign, DuDomaine says, is a bit lower than previous fall efforts, thanks to the pandemic. But Milestones, which currently operates 45 locations across the country, is at the point where it it is reimagining what the brand is all about and getting it back, according to DuDomaine. “We are not at the forefront of the industry in our category, and want to get back there,” he concedes.

The restaurant brand had already listed a “Ryan Reynolds martini” on its menu last year using the actor’s Aviation gin, so the hook up involving the Vancouver-born actor was a natural fit with the restaurant’s target: suburbanites in their mid 20s to mid 40s, skewing a bit female, who like fun and variety.

“I’ve been in the restaurant marketing industry for seven years and I’ve always shied away from leveraging personalities, as whoever you try and associate with, there’s always a risk factor,” DuDomaine says. However, with Reynolds, his public image has always been strong and that both he and his gin’s popularity has grown substantially. That’s been helped by a series of North American campaigns starring Reynolds that have gotten a fair bit of attention and acclaim for their humour – a recent one cheekily promoted a super-sized bottle made for parents facing the prospect of home schooling.

The campaign, created by Toronto agency Juliet, runs until November, launching in B.C .and Alberta first, followed by Ontario at a later date, running until November. This is to help boost fortunes in what is typically a very busy fall season absent of COVID, to tap into the longer patio season in its seven Vancouver locations, and because of the popularity and competitiveness of the happy hour phenomenon in Western Canada.