Pernod Ricard shifts brand experience spend to social

Coronavirus pandemic has meant that many of the events that the company usually puts on were not able to take place.

Pernod Ricard: ran a Malibu experiential campaign last summer
Pernod Ricard: ran a Malibu experiential campaign last summer

Pernod Ricard has been moving its brand activations spend into social media and ecommerce as the coronavirus pandemic meant that it was not able to run its usual programme of events over the spring and summer.

David Haworth, managing director at Pernod Ricard UK, explained that the business has had to change its model for branded experiences. He was speaking during a call with journalists about the company's full-year financial results yesterday.

Haworth said: "We have pivoted that [experiential marketing] model, we have downsized the amount of investment and resource, and thought about what we can actually activate and do.

"I think the big increase is on the whole ecommerce piece; there is now a bigger investment in that area. Plus the whole social-media aspect of brands, we've got a big portfolio and we can't just focus on one or two blockbuster brands. We've got to spread resources across brands and I think social media is a very good and cost-effective way of doing it.

"The whole media plan is completely different and is looked at on a continuous basis."

Last year, over the spring and summer seasons, Pernod Ricard's brand activations included campaigns for Malibu, Jameson and Absolut. The company also has a strong presence at festivals but these were also cancelled due to coronavirus. 

During the results call, the company also said that it is dedicated to continue running its Chivas Brothers Scotch whisky visitor centres at a loss "to keep the experience alive".

The drinks owner reopened its Glenlivet, Aberlour and Scapa visitor centres on 29 July, and the Strathisla visitor centre from 7 August after months of closure because of the lockdown measures.

Jean-Christophe Coutures, chairman and chief executive of Chivas Brothers, said: "The peak of revenue is usually coming from April to October. During that period [April to August] we had about 80% less attendance compared to the numbers of people who usually visit us.

"We are committed to continuing investing in the visitor centres and to continue having visitors coming to see us because I think it's important as part of the DNA of this malt. Therefore we are committed to even be at a loss, losing money during this period to keep the experience alive."

The Scottish-based distilleries are being hit by the lack of international tourism but Miriam Eceolaza, marketing director for Chivas Brothers said that any investment that the company has made will not be lost.

"Our investment will be there next year," she said. "And it's a bet for us to renovate our brand home because we really believe in the long run people will continue coming to Scotland and to Speyside to visit us."

Pernod Ricard reported a 9.5% organic decline in its full-year sales but said that it performed strongly during the lockdown as more people bought its products from supermarkets and off-licences – off-trade spirits sales were up 20%.