Campaigns Showcase: Food & Drink - Focus PR - Bourbon launch is a hive of activity

Campaigns Showcase: Food & Drink - Focus PR - Bourbon launch is a hive of activity

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

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.


- 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 opening to give journalists a sneak peek of the performance. A honeycomb cocktail was designed just 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.


Our approach is to apply truly creative thinking to meet clients' key commercial challenges. In this case, it was all about making an impression with the trade and consumers to build distribution and sales quickly, establishing Jim Beam Honey, the first ever honey-infused bourbon in the UK, ahead of a key competitor.

From a creative perspective the theme was obvious (honey was the core message to convey), but we sought to bring this to life with as much impact as possible, using the element of surprise to create a truly memorable experience. From the honeycomb hive to sourcing honey dippers instead of swizzle sticks, bartenders dressed as beekeepers, bespoke music and the eye-popping acrobatics of aerial performers, we obsessed over tiny details.

Speed and agility sum up the execution of the event. With fewer than seven weeks from brief to opening night, the race was on to find an outside space in central London that would permit alcohol sampling (made even trickier due to recent changes in the law) and that was available at short notice, while also being the right location for reaching our target audience.

We had horrendous weather to contend with too (the wettest April to June period on record), which proved particularly challenging for holding an outdoor photo shoot and the very complex build of the hive.

Thanks to a fantastic team of people, agency and client side, the two-day event was a huge success from a commercial and PR perspective. And it even stopped raining for the occasion.


'We are recruiting new consumers to the brand while at the same time driving excitement around bourbon, evidenced by category-busting growth of 18 per cent in the past year, versus total imported whiskey, which grew by three per cent,' says Maxxium UK marketing controller Eileen Livingston.

- Achieved national listings in Matthew Clark Wholesale within 20 days of launch, followed by listings in Asda and Sainsbury's, plus more than 400 luxury offand on-trade listings nationwide.

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