Cedar Ridge “Sorry Kentucky”
Strategy / Advertising / Photography / Illustration / Environmental / Merchandise / Web Design / Social Media
Call Your Shot
The Brief
What good comes from picking a fight with an entire category?
The Opportunity

As a challenger brand, you have to make the most of every opportunity. And in the world of bourbon, all roads lead through Louisville. If great corn is essential to making great bourbon, why wouldn’t Iowa-based Cedar Ridge have a legitimate claim to the throne? Bolstered by success in two high-profile distilling competitions, it was time for Cedar Ridge to take its flagship Iowa Straight Bourbon Whiskey to the masses.

Brand Strategy

As a challenger brand, you must take calculated risks to get attention needed to make your move. FUEL helped Cedar Ridge hone a strategy that leveraged its strengths and put the homeland of bourbon on notice that good things were happening in the unlikeliest of places – Iowa.  


Whether it was featuring pastoral landscapes or fine details of the crops, imagery was captured and selected to accentuate the equity found in Iowa corn. And the bottle was always shot with a heroic stance to further strengthen the confidence in the presentation.
Cedar Ridge Sorry Kentucky photo collage
Cedar Ridge Sorry Kentucky bottle photography behind the scenes


To bring additional depth to the campaign, FUEL designed a series of custom illustrations to emphasize the role of Place and Process in the Cedar Ridge Iowa Corn Bourbon brand. Flat, simplified, and textural in its styling, the illustrations leveraged a color palette anchored in the packaging and amber bourbon itself.
Aerial farming view illustration


When the distributor calls and says they’ve secured space on a digital billboard in Times Square, it’s time to shoot your shot. The Sorry Kentucky campaign was born. With a :15 spot running on loop in NYC, print ads drawing attention to the recent medal wins ran in key trade publications.
Over time, the campaign evolved to be less state vs. state confrontation in favor of an equally confident argument reinforcing the role Iowa corn plays in making great bourbon.
Three Sorry Kentucky magazine ads


The FUEL team leveraged the custom illustration to design environmental graphics at the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids. Multiple large wall graphics filled the bar area. An audio version of the “FLYOVER COUNTRY” ad played over the PA. Additional accoutrements included a back-bar whiskey display and a dimensional metal tacker of the bottle.
Cedar Ridge Sorry Kentucky environmental airport display


For merchandise, FUEL adopted an illustration style resembling the neon signage commonly found in taverns.
Cedar Ridge Sorry Kentucky t-shirts

Web Design

FUEL developed a hard-working single page web design dedicated to Iowa Corn Bourbon. It reinforced key messaging while offering tasty drink recipes and the opportunity to view the TV spot.

Social Media

The brand leveraged social ads to raise awareness, while also thanking devotees when the bourbon earned the top spot in sales in 2020. It marked the first time a craft bourbon had ever become the top selling bourbon in its home state.

Sorry Kentucky Instagram social posting of aerial illustration
Sorry Kentucky silo picture in instagram post


Cedar Ridge Sorry Kentucky awards

Advertising Design | Excellence Award

2019 Art Directors Association of Iowa Awards

Video Spot | Excellence Award

2020 Art Directors Association of Iowa Awards

Bill Bollman
Creative Director

Bill Bollman is FUEL’s Creative Director. Before co-founding FUEL in 2001, he worked for Horizon Communications, JW Morton and Basler Design Group. Bill studied Illustration at Hawkeye Tech in Waterloo, Iowa. An expert in the “old ways” of hands-on print production, these skills influence his work in the digital world to this day. His work throughout his career has been featured in international publications including Graphis, How International Design, Communication Arts, and The One Book as well as numerous design annuals and reference books.

Hometown: West Union, Iowa
Involved in Design and Marketing since 1988
Interests: Fitness, Travel, Movies