The three-day collaboration with local brands like Shanghai Tang focused on creativity, entertainment and luxury. The events blend opinion leaders in areas like design, fashion, art, music, gastronomy, mixology and, of course whisky.
The Hong Kong event, staged at the harbor-front Watermark restaurant from Sept. 4-6, follows similar events in New York, Miami, Madrid and Barcelona. About 3,000 celebrities, models, singers, designers and socialites took part.
Guests were invited either by Pernod Ricard directly or by local Chivas brand ambassadors such as Joanne Ooi, the creative director of Shanghai Tang, and fashion photographer Wing Shya, whose first solo exhibition, "Prevation: a Manga Story," premiered at the Chivas event.
Chivas Studio is a "global exploration platform but in Hong Kong, the concept was different. We put an Asian twist to it by working with local artists and designers," such as local artist Justin Lo, said Jocelyn Yong, general manager of TBWA Worldwide's direct-marketing arm, Tequila, in Shanghai. Pernod Ricard also designed the bar with an Asian theme and ended the event with fireworks, a common attraction at Chinese celebrations.
The Chivas Studio event in Hong Kong was organized by Tequila, as well as Emotion, a Publicis Groupe-owned event execution company and WPP Group's PR firm, Hill & Knowlton. "Through the event, we tried to show the attitude of Chivas, luxury and living life to the fullest through all the angles that make life richer, such as food and fashion, more than just music, which has been the traditional focus for Chivas marketing in Asia," Ms. Yong said.
It was also designed to step up the Chivas brand image in Greater China, a battleground for Pernod Ricard and Diageo, which markets rival Scotch brand Johnnie Walker.
Hong Kong is the first Asian stop for an upcoming Chivas Studio tour that will hit other regional hotspots like Shanghai, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo and at least one major city in India. Asian countries, especially in China and Japan, are major markets for whisky and cognac sales.
Greater China is key market for whisky sales
In China, which became one of the top 10 whisky markets in the world in 2006, both companies have adopted increasingly theatrical means to promote their brands to the same target market: white-collar workers and entrepreneurs aged 25-35 in China's first- and second-tier cities.
Earlier this year, Diageo and its ad agency, Publicis-backed Bartle Bogle Hegarty, created a series of stylish and atmospheric 60-second ads for the Chinese market that look more like short films than TV spots. The approach departs from its previous advertising in the mainland -- and alcohol marketers there in general -- that traditionally relies on images of a drink in a glass or bottle set within a high-status context.
Diageo has also hosted dozens of parties in more than 30 Chinese cities over the past two years to promote its sponsorship of a Formula One auto racing team.
Last year, Chivas began shifting its marketing strategy in China away from a straight music connection by sponsoring the first Chinese team to take part in the America's Cup. To promote its involvement with the famed yacht race in China, and solidify Chivas as an upscale brand, it organized 60 large themed parties and 150 smaller events around China and added a sailing theme to its ongoing "This Is Chivas Life" campaign.
The stakes are high for both marketers. Whisky sales have increased by about 30% annually over the last five years in China, and it is still one of the fastest-growing markets.
Pernod Ricard's Chivas Regal 12-year-old blend is the longtime category leader in China. But Johnnie Walker is closing the gap with double-digit growth in China in recent years.
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