Project: Malmö Öl and Whisky Festival
Client: John Dewar and Sons Ltd | Bacardi Limited
As mentioned in our first blog post we travelled a lot last year, working in locations all over the world, so in this post we thought we’d give an insight into what it actually takes to organise and deploy a fully serviced international brand activation. We recently worked with John Dewar and Sons Ltd to deliver their incredible single malt portfolio and its custom designed stand at the ‘Malmö Öl and Whisky Festival’ in Sweden. Dylan from our Ops team kept a brief diary to illustrate exactly what it takes to make it all happen…..
Hi I’m Dylan, I’m head of Special Projects here at The RAWK Agency, this is my activation diary from ‘Malmö Öl and Whisky Festival’.
In the run up to an event like this one there is a lot of prep to be done to ensure the success of the project. Our team all have backgrounds in the music and creative industries and we approach our international activations in much the same way we would approach tour management. In the weeks prior to departure we work with our client, in this case Jamie MacDonald the European Dark Spirit Ambassador for Bacardi Limited, to finalise the project focus and the exact design of the activation, before delivering 3D imagery of the design for final sign-off. Every step of the trip is then advanced, this allows us to create day sheets, carry out risk assessments and build an overall activation plan.
At this point we work to budget to book all of our transport and accommodation. Generally our European activations go via our satellite hub in Amsterdam, so flights from Edinburgh to Schiphol and transport from there need to be arranged. We also organise any transit hotels en route from our hub to the activation and finally accommodation for the duration of the activation. At this prep stage we’ll liaise with the venue to organise load in, secure site plans and check that our planned activation is in line with all local health and safety regulations and, where alcohol is concerned, in line with national laws. Once all of this is in place it’s time to go.
A dawn start in Edinburgh gets us underway for the first leg of our journey to Malmö. We’re in the air for 8.15am and land at Schiphol just over an hour later. No delays collecting our equipment, so the next step is a brief hop to pick-up our van on the outskirts of Amsterdam, before making our way to the hub to collect the assets needed to create the stand for the show. We produce a 3D model of the van pack for each show in advance, so it only takes a matter of minutes to have everything packed and get on our way.
This is our second Swedish activation of 2016 and the now familiar drive through The Netherlands and into Germany is made all the better by the uncharacteristic blue skies (every journey goes quicker with a bit of sunshine) and before we know it we’re in Denmark and pulling into our hotel.
Another day with a sunny start. Today’s journey is much shorter, just a 4 hr drive across Denmark. The bridge from Copenhagen to Malmö is always spectacular and is stunning in the good weather. We arrive at the venue for 1pm exactly as planned and the Malmömässen venue is a hugely impressive, 1 year old, purpose built space on a grand scale. Having contacted the events team during our planning stages, we know the loading bay location and the position of the stand plot and are able to load straight in and begin our build. We’ve worked with this stand several times now, so even though it’s a relatively complicated set up, it’s built in no time and we’re putting the final touches to the dressing ready for tomorrow. As always we take photographs to document the stand, particularly as this stand can be built in several different permutations. We get in touch with Jamie from the brand to check that he will be meeting us as planned tomorrow, and check into our hotel for a quiet night and plenty of rest before the long two days of the show. I had originally thought that the unusual view from my hotel window was an alien spacecraft, but research revealed it to be a beautifully designed water tower!
We’re on site 3 hours before the Festival is open to the public, so we have plenty of time to complete a full stock count, stock the stand and make any final aesthetic adjustments. The alcohol serving regulations in Sweden are some of the most stringent in Europe, so we have taken the time to understand every element that might affect operations during the weekend. Doors open at 3pm on the dot and the first of today’s 3500 attendees start trickling in. Whisky clubs are very popular in Sweden, so they form a big part of the clientele and are always well informed and looking for something interesting or different. We have whisky with us from all 5 of the John Dewar and Sons distilleries this weekend, two of which, Royal Brackla and The Deveron, have not been available in Sweden before and all of which have very different characters and profiles. Some visitors just want to try different drams and are happy to chat about the stories of each distillery, but some want to know every detail of the production and maturation process, right down to the design of the bottle and the type of casks used so it is key that our product knowledge is second to none. At some points we are 3 deep at the bar with the RAWK team and Jamie and Erland from the brand all in full flow. It’s quite an impressive sight to look out and see 30 people listening intently and nosing their drams. The show doesn’t finish until 11pm, but the long afternoon flies by and it's soon time to re-set the stand and conduct a full stock count.
Today’s session starts earlier, so we’re at the venue at 11am. The bar is quickly re-set and we’re ready to go. There are twice the visitor numbers expected today, so it’s going to be busy non-stop. From the first few minutes, the bar is a draw and stays full throughout the day. When the flow of customers is as constant as it is today the trick is to keep the drams flowing while still engaging with every customer. There are more whisky novices amongst the crowd today, so there are opportunities for some really interesting conversations with people who are coming to whisky for the first time without any preconceptions. The last dram is called at 8.45pm and we finish the last few conversations. As the doors close, we each know exactly what needs to be done and who will do what. As I complete the stock count, Operations Manager Fin is bringing the van into position for a quick load out. The stand is dismantled even more quickly than it was erected and in just over an hour we are loading the van for tomorrow’s journey. A handshake and thanks from Jamie and we return to the hotel.
A quiet day today. Just the drive back across Denmark to Sønderborg. The trusty van has become a close friend over the last few days and we’ll be sad to leave it in Amsterdam tomorrow. A gentle run through the Danish countryside brings us to our hotel for mid-afternoon, where it transpires that the entire town is closed for the day, including both of Sønderborg’s tractor museums!
The final day. The last long haul journey, 660km by road then a 670km flight. We get an early start to give us plenty of time in Amsterdam to pack the stand into our hub and return our van. On long haul drives we always share the driving to ensure we are both fresh at the end of the journey, so we arrive in the Dutch capital ready to move! The load out into the hub is a well oiled machine and gives us a last chance to check all the assets are in good condition after the journey. We’re on our way in less than an hour to return the van, before taking a taxi to Schiphol for the final leg home. On our return to the U.K. we will complete a full report on the event, both for our own reference and for the client. This will provide us with a reference point should we be asked to undertake this activation again, and provide our client with key information like new product reaction, volumes of each product used and how the stand concept is performing, all of which go towards helping them measure their current marketing strategy and shape its future.
We’re both tired and glad to be heading home, but the feeling of satisfaction after delivering an activation to a really high standard always makes it worthwhile. Thanks for taking the time to read my diary and hopefully it has shed a little more light on what we do here at The RAWK Agency.
So, as you can see from Dylan’s diary, there’s more to a successful brand activation than smiles and sample stock, and at The RAWK Agency we are incredibly proud of the full service offering we have developed. Whether it’s a global brand with a structured campaign that needs delivered flawlessly, or a brand in its growth stages looking to develop strategies and assets to tell their story and take their product to the consumer via engaging and experiential activations that develop a lasting and meaningful B2C relationship, The RAWK Agency can provide a service fully tailored to individual client needs.
If you'd like to talk about our approach, or If you think we could provide similar services to your brand, please don't hesitate to get in touch.
Dylan and Fin’s Malmö Play List -
Golden Earring - Radar love
The Cardigans - Lovefool
Franz Ferdinand - Matinee
Kraftwerk - Autobahn
The Hives - Hate to say I told you so.
Efterklang - Hollow mountain
The Raveonettes - Ode to LA
Peter, Bjorn and John - Young Folks
First Aid Kit - Emmylou
Dutch Uncles - Flexion