Food & Drink: Bourbon launch is a hive of activity

The launch of Jim Beam Honey, distributed by Maxxium in the UK, was brought forward following its successful entry into the German market. Focus PR was given fewer than seven weeks to pull off a high-profile and creative launch event for trade, media and consumers.

Jim Beam Honey: Freerunners raised awareness ahead of the launch
Jim Beam Honey: Freerunners raised awareness ahead of the launch

Campaign: The Ultimate Buzzzz - launching Jim Beam Honey
Client: Maxxium UK
PR team: Focus PR
Timescale: April-June 2012
Budget: £135,000



  •  To create a high-impact event to quickly put Jim Beam Honey on the map.
  •  To enhance Jim Beam's reputation for flavour innovation in bourbon by being first to market with a honey variant.
  •  To sample the drink to at least 1,000 target consumers (men and women aged 25+; first-time bourbon drinkers).
  •  To support national offand on-trade sell-in and therefore secure listings.

Strategy and plan

The flavour message was vital to the communication, as was the element of surprise. This led to the creative strategy of: 'Bee Surprised.'

Focus decided to create a pop-up beehive bar in Broadgate Circle in the City, which would be open for two days only.

No brand material was available for media use before the launch, so Focus set up a teaser photoshoot. Two free runners dressed as beekeepers bounded off buildings at the site of the bar, before it was erected. The imagery was sent out in a press release, while a poster campaign spread awareness in the area. The Focus team also worked with Broadgate's comms team to spread the word on an intranet service available to 30,000 people in the Broadgate development.

A series of messages was posted on two blogs, Bitch Buzz and Spoonfed, in the lead up to, as well as during, the two days when the bar was open.

The bar was tended by 'beekeepers' serving Jim Beam Honey cocktails. Focus ran a Twitter feed featuring pictures and comments live from the hive.

The agency engaged international DJ duo Yolanda be Cool to create a bespoke seven-minute track, using Flight of the Bumble Bee and Nicki Minaj's hit, Beez in a Trap, as the base tracks, with aerial artists performing to the music in the bar.

Trade media were invited into the hive ahead of the official opening to give journalists a sneak peek of the performance. A honeycomb cocktail was designed especially for them.

Measurement and evaluation

The pre-event imagery was picked up by 14 media outlets including Time Out, and In total, 39 pieces of pre-and post-event coverage were secured.


Maxxium UK secured the first listing for Jim Beam Honey in Matthew Clark Wholesale within 20 days of the launch event. This was followed by national distribution in Asda and Sainsbury's. Around 1,190 people attended the event and 2,500 Jim Beam Honey samples were distributed, beating the target of 1,000. Maxxium UK is considering rolling out the hive internationally, and it has been cited as best practice by brand owner Beam Global.



This is a tricky one to comment on as, on the one hand, Focus PR did exactly what was asked of it - and did it very well.

But on the other hand, I feel that the agency missed an opportunity to push the activity further into a more effective piece of marketing.

A honey-flavoured spirit is quite intriguing. It could taste fantastic or disgusting.

This is a Marmite opportunity and when I saw the theme of 'Bee Surprised', I thought Focus would leap at the chance to challenge consumers to a taste test, to ascertain whether the drink was a hit or miss, and package the results.

Instead, it worked really hard on creating a cool Bee Bar trial event and did leverage this well with a nice photo story, music angle and Twitter hashtag.

Some good coverage was generated and the client was obviously happy. There is nothing at all wrong with that.

Perhaps Focus was not allowed to stray from the brief, but it just feels as if this was potentially a story with bigger wings.

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