Behind the Brand

Brown-Forman and Breakthru’s Commitment to Excellence: The 1870 Society

May 17, 2021

Rings are powerful symbols. They can be a physical reminder of your commitment, perhaps to a school or the love of your life. Some serve as trophies, demonstrating to the world your accomplishment as a world-class competitor. The rings worn by members of the 1870 Society represent the dedication, hard work, and triumph of the Brown-Forman and Breakthru team members who make our partnership so incredible.

Recognizing Greatness

Now in its eighth year, the 1870 Society is the creation of John Higgins, Vice President at Brown-Forman, and Rick Slaughter, Breakthru’s Vice President of Business Development with Brown-Forman.

“We saw so much great work going on throughout both teams,” Higgins told us in a recent interview. “We wanted to find a way to recognize the people taking the extra step.”

Higgins explained that Slaughter showed him a ring that Brown-Forman used to give out as a form of recognition, and over a lovely Old Forester Old Fashioned, they came up with the 1870 Society, named for the year George Garvin Brown started Brown-Forman.

Each year, Brown-Forman and Breakthru recognize the outstanding achievements of associates from throughout both companies.

“Anyone in any role at either Brown-Forman or Breakthru Beverage can win induction,” Slaughter said. “We have inducted regional presidents, sales representatives, state managers, market managers, and even Charlie Merinoff, our Co-Chairman, was inducted last year.”

“The people we inducted into the 1870 Society have developed and executed programs that reinforce our leadership in a unique way that results in keeping existing consumers and bringing new ones into our families,” Higgins explained. “We were not looking for one-off execution, but a consistent delivery of ideas and activities above their normal duties. Therefore, we make such a special deal out of being a member.”

Celebrating Victory

In a special ceremony held after the end of Brown-Forman’s fiscal year, which is part of a long weekend of celebrations, each new inductee receives a Golden Grain ring and recognition for their exemplary work from the senior leadership of both companies.

“We’ve been here for 151 years,” Higgins said of Brown-Forman. “It is a fact that we would not have made it 50 years without the excellent work by our distributor partners throughout the years. To be able to recognize people who are doing the work today, so we are here for another 150 years, is what The 1870 Society means to me.”

For Slaughter, the 1870 Society “is a tangible way to say ‘thank you’ to our associates who consistently, day after day, go the extra mile to help make our business successful and bring our brands to life for the consumer.” For a Breakthru associate to join the 1870, they must first be nominated for, and win, one of Breakthru’s Founders Award during the fiscal year. According to Slaughter, inductees for the society are chosen from among those winners.

The induction ceremony, held in top-rated hotels and resorts in pre-pandemic times, is the culmination of incredible work for the inductees, and a chance to share in each other’s accomplishments.

It’s an important moment for Higgins.

“I get to hear the passion of those being inducted,” Higgins said. “I also get a chance to thank them in person for all they’ve done.”

Slaughter echoed his sentiment.

“The pride I see in the winners when they get called to the stage to receive their 1870 Society Golden Grain rings is something I’ll always remember,” Slaughter said.

Winning the Future

Slaughter is proud of the society’s past, and excited for its future.

“As our on-premise customers emerge from the pandemic, consumers will be looking for exciting new experiences,” Slaughter said. “This gives us the opportunity to bring our brands to life in exciting new ways that we would not have considered a year ago. I cannot wait to see the new ideas our associates bring forward.”

We are all looking forward to the bold, groundbreaking work future members of the 1870 Society will do to make sure Brown-Forman and Breakthru’s relationship remains strong and fruitful in the years to come.