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“It’s about finding creative and new ways to really support these artists”: Sailor Jerry Rum and the Arts

Sailor Jerry’s support of the arts and live entertainment industries is a manifestation of the brand’s “all in” ethos

The Australian music festival landscape has seen vast growth and reorganisation over the last decade and a half, but there’s been one constant through it all—and no, it’s not blokes in tank tops and teens with sunstroke. 

Rather, it’s the Sailor Jerry’s rum bar, which typically appears at festivals like Unify Gathering and Yours & Owls, serving as a mini-oasis amid the organised chaos of the event at-large.

Sailor Jerry’s support of the arts and live entertainment industries is a manifestation of the brand’s “all in” ethos. 

“Sailor Jerry, in its essence, is a lifestyle brand,” says brand ambassador, Lucille Rose-Hopkins. “So, while we want people drinking our rum, at the end of the day it’s more about creating and buying into a lifestyle.”

In an effort to spread the all-in gospel, Sailor Jerry often hosts its own live music events in local bars, pubs and tattoo parlours. For instance, last year’s #supportyourlocalartist campaign was designed to get bands back on stages and punters back in venues after the first wave of coronavirus lockdowns.

As part of the initiative, Sydney punks The Dead Love played at The Tattoo Movement in Alexandria, while bluesy indie-rock duo Polish Club cultivated a sense of COVID-safe intimacy at Earl’s Juke Joint in Newtown, and Newcastle pop-punk crew Eat Your Heart Out played a pop-up show at Sydney CBD bar, Since I Left You.

“We’ll go to a live music venue, we’ll say, ‘Hey, we would love to get some bands down, have some great drinks going and create a really big party,’ and then we sponsor the whole thing, ” says Rose-Hopkins.

Sydney venue The Argyle, which Sailor Jerry fitted out for the 2021 Rolling Stone Australia Awards

“It’s about finding creative and new ways to really support these artists after they’ve come out of lockdowns and haven’t had much work.”

Sailor Jerry’s flagship product is a 40% ABV spiced rum, which is distilled in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The brand’s visual aesthetic and experiential ethos was fashioned in honour of American tattoo artist, Norman Keith Collins, who lived from 1911-1973. 

Collins, who went by the nickname Sailor Jerry, grew up in Reno, Nevada in the 1920s. He enlisted in the United States Navy during the Great Depression before settling down in Hawaii, where he established himself as a tattooist par excellence. 

Collins is now seen as a godfather of modern Western tattooing practices—a quintessential Collins design, a Hawaiian hula girl, appears on the majority of Sailor Jerry’s bottled beverages. 

“The brand’s based around his story of how he got into tattoos and all the tattoos that he designed,” says Rose-Hopkins. “So we always try to incorporate tattoo artists into our events as much as possible.”

For example, Sailor Jerry hosted a party at Hobart’s Replay Bar in May 2021. It was a way of saying thank you to the city’s hospitality workers and bar tenders, “but then we also brought in four different artists and they were giving away tattoos the whole night,” says Rose-Hopkins. “We paid for them to come in and hand out these tattoos.”

A guest at the 2021 Sailor Jerry Rolling Stone Australia Awards getting a tattoo

The Sailor Jerry flash sheet includes a range of nautical and naval iconography, such as anchors, ships, sharks, swallows and nautical stars, as well as other vintage classics like pin-up girls, eagles, wildcats and military tattoos. 

“Sailor Jerry lived and worked as a tattoo artist in Hawaii for pretty much his whole tattooing career, so all the tattoos have that Hawaiian, nautical, navy influence,” says Rose-Hopkins. “When we do these events, we do always give away Sailor Jerry designs, but there’s literally 200-300 designs that he’s credited with creating.”

In addition to supporting tattooists, Sailor Jerry has a history of commissioning visual artists to paint murals in city venues. They’re currently working on a big wall mural at Wollongong live music haunt, La La La’s. “It’s looking awesome,” says Rose-Hopkins. 

Rose-Hopkins and the Sailor Jerry crew will be back in Wollongong for next April’s Yours & Owls festival, the lineup for which includes Flight Facilities, Ruby Fields and Hilltop Hoods. They’re also a major presenting sponsor of Unify Forever, which goes down in Gippsland, Victoria in January 2021, with performances from Violent Soho, Waax and the Amity Affliction.

“That’s going to be our priority for the first half of the year, getting back to big festivals, big live music events, and supporting them where we can,” says Rose-Hopkins. “It just makes sense to support live music and to really give back to that industry, because basically everything that live music stands for, it’s also all the things that Sailor Jerry at its core stands for.”

Rolling Stone Australia Awards

Sydney band Closure performing at the 2021 Rolling Stone Australia Awards pre-party thanks to an opportunity from Sailor Jerry

Sailor Jerry was the title sponsor for this year’s Rolling Stone Australia Awards, which were shortlisted in the Event or Virtual Event of the Year category at the 2021 Mumbrella Publish Awards.

Sailor Jerry is on board for next year’s Rolling Stone Australia Awards, too, and they’ll be co-presenting the Sailor Jerry Road to Rolling Stone Australia Awards live music roadshow; a free event series with gigs in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.

“To be able to work alongside Rolling Stone Australia, which has such a big history in music, it’s really exciting and it’s really cool that we can do that,” says Rose-Hopkins.

In all, 2022 is shaping up to be a major year for Sailor Jerry and its embrace of live music, local venues, tattoo artists and anyone who’s keen to go all-in.

“The last two years have been a really tough time for local artists, local musicians, local tattoo artists,” says Rose-Hopkins. “Now that we’re coming out of lockdown, it’s really important to get out there and support these local artists any way you can. Maybe it’s going to the bar and watching some live music or maybe booking in that tattoo. Just anything you can do to get back out there and support these creatives.”

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