Harnessing the full range of its platforms and channels, Time Out built an intricate campaign for its Bar Awards sponsor, spanning seven cities.
The third annual Bar Awards, presented through a paid partnership with William Grant & Sons, makers of Hendrick’s Gin and Glenfiddich Whisky, provides the distillers with a multi-channel, 10-week-long, B2B campaign, in order to produce the seven-city-spanning awards across the company’s many platforms and through live events for bar professionals and the brand’s audience.
The North American Bar Awards, taking place in New York City, Miami, Philadelphia, Chicago, Austin, Los Angeles and San Fransisco, were launched to “help position the brand as an authority and key partner in each city’s bar scene amongst owners, local experts, bartenders,” according to Christine Petersen, CEO of Time Out Digital.
According to Petersen, its partners wanted to take advantage of the sponsorship opportunity again after the successes it saw with the Bar Awards last year. Both Time Out and William Grant & Sons looked at factors like making industry connections, attendance of live events—including gaging the energy and camaraderie of attendees—media coverage, and social media coverage, to measure their successes compared to the previous year’s engagement. Time Out confirmed that all of their goals in these categories were met or exceeded last year and have been hit or exceeded so far this year.
The campaign is rooted in digital, video, social, CRM, print and live events in each city, and relies on the sponsor’s active involvement in each of these areas, though the planning and prep of the campaign is turn-key for the distillers and is the collective responsibility for Time Out’s various teams.
Petersen says that the planning process began six weeks before the first event and focused on integrating digital platforms—areas where the Time Out audience is notably engaged—including on social media and in video.
“William Grant & Sons will be receiving five pieces of custom video content, produced in-house by the Time Out Creative Solutions team,” says Petersen. The content ranges from celebrating the winning Bars of the Year to featuring different bartenders who answer questions about their profession or their bars’ signature cocktails, all highlighting the spirits from the sponsor’s distillery.
Outside of digital promotion, the key element of the campaign is the live events which tie in the sponsor by connecting them with the local bar communities and professionals across the various cities. “William Grant & Sons looks to put their brand in hand via event product sampling, showcasing their premium liquor portfolio to new potential clients, and rewarding their top accounts for their business,” says Petersen.
William Grant & Sons’s campaign involved the company’s direct participation in each of the cities’ live events as well, including the exclusive use of the distiller’s liquor at each of the events and sponsoring two of the awards, Bar of the Year and Best Legacy Bar, at each event.
Charlotte Voisey, William Grant & Sons’s director of brand advocacy, is working alongside the portfolio’s team of Ambassadors to curate signature cocktails for each city, and Petersen says that they “also joined the judging panels together with the Time Out editorial team and other bar industry experts.”
One difference at each live event is that William Grant & Sons selects a “hero brand”—a specially curated liquor for the city based off of customer insights and local preferences—which Petersen says allows for the brand’s whole portfolio of drinks to get in the spotlight throughout the campaign.
The campaign is also leveraging customer relationship management through the use of email newsletters post-events in each city. “William Grant & Sons is being included as a partner in these emails and it is a great way to inform the experience-hungry, Time Out audience to get out and enjoy the best the bar world has to offer right now,” she says.
Since this is the second year with William Grant & Sons’s involvement, Petersen says there were a few event calibrations that were made for this year’s Bar Awards, including scaling back on the amount of food provided at the events. “We were able to scale back to light bites and reallocate the budget to other elements that made more of an impact to our guests and the campaign, such as more prestigious awards. Rather than framed certificates, the winners now receive a tangible crystal award that can be displayed on the bar or on-site more prominently,” she says. The awards also feature Time Out’s and William Grant & Sons’s branding.
In order to achieve a fluid campaign across the seven cities, the various departments in the Time Out organization that are involved in building the campaign had to overcome the challenges of being spread out across several time zones, while also ensuring that the sponsor and everyone across the Bar Awards are aware of timelines and the different elements.
“We have one dedicated project manager from each core pillar that is responsible for all Bar Awards deliverables in their area of business,” says Petersen. “They ensure that all internal and external deliverables are met and that the clients are happy with the end result.”
So far, the campaign and the Bar Awards has been successful for both parties, and Petersen says that the live awards that have already occured have had excellent turnout from professionals and consumers. “We have been able to bolster invaluable connections with industry leaders across the country, while also achieving both the quantitative and qualitative goals of this campaign.”
As the sponsors, William Grant & Sons’s director of brand advocacy Charlotte Voisey, says the distillers are excited by “the results coming together across all facets of the partnership, from the media coverage and social sharing to the energy and camaraderie generated through the live events.”