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Of all the brands in the Irish Distillers stable, Jameson has always had the most recognisable ‘international’ voice. That’s no accident: when Irish Distillers was created in 1966 to band together the remaining products in a badly faltering Irish whiskey industry, Jameson was carefully positioned to appeal to the overseas consumer, with Paddy and Power’s more often the choice of Ireland’s home-based whiskey drinkers.
Some 43 years on, and that positioning remains a big part of the Jameson appeal. Now, as the Irish whiskey category grows by leaps and bounds, Jameson enjoys a burgeoning reputation as a global brand – one that just happens to be Irish.
That global appeal is underpinned in a huge way by the brand’s connection to the film industry, through its support for some of the world’s leading film festivals. And that’s what made last Tuesday’s inaugural Jameson Film Experience such a key event for the brand. It was an event that blended its Irish roots with a vital dash of international flavour.
It was held in Dublin, but most of the guests were from overseas – media and partners of Irish Distillers. In a neat Irish twist, the red carpet at the entrance to the event became green, but we still had the big international star, in the shape of actor Clive Owen (above), who was interviewed live on-stage at the ‘Experience’ after a showing of his film Sin City. Even the way the brand was delivered mixed Irish and international elements: Jameson was the drink of course, but offered as a cocktail rather than neat in the glass or with a dash of water, as it would once have been.
The ‘halo effect’ that Jameson is seeking from its film connections – in particular its drive to target young adult consumers – translates to travel retail too. In-store theatre is a critical part of the strategy to attract these consumers to the brand, and its highly visible promotions are now a regular, and effective, feature at airports such as Dublin and Schiphol in the run-up to the Dublin International Film Festival each February.
Backed by the awareness and kudos that the movies deliver, the drive to globalise the brand continues apace. From its traditional strongholds of the US and western Europe, its appeal is growing fast elsewhere too. Sales in Russia and Eastern Europe are up sharply in H1 2008/09, with emerging markets such as South Africa showing tremendous growth too.
In many ways then, Jameson’s story is the story of Ireland today. Forward-looking, but with strong awareness of its heritage; unmistakeably Irish, but with an eye on the global stage. As the brand drives towards the 3 million-case mark in sales worldwide, expect that fusion of the homegrown and the international to be central to its continuing growth.