The festivities of St Patrick's Day are imminent and it's potentially the most lucrative occasion of the year for pubs, enthuses Ben McFarland
Begorrah, bejaysus and bejabbers! St Patrick's Day, the annual celebration of all things Irish and potentially one of the most lucrative dates in the pub calendar, is upon us once again.
When St Patrick was spreading Christianity throughout the Emerald Isle, turning his enemies into animals and ridding Ireland of snakes back in the fifth century, little would he have known that centuries later he'd be the inspiration for a global celebration.
Research undertaken by Guinness reveals that one in 10 people in Britain celebrate St Pat's and, although the level of revelry in the UK fails to rival that of either Ireland or the US, it represents an excellent opportunity to drive lapsed customers back into pubs after a traditionally slow January and February.
Furthermore, with March 17 falling on a Sunday, this year's craic is set to be bigger then ever as many are planning to make a weekend of it.
So what have the big brands got planned for this year? In recent years, Guinness has hijacked St Patrick's Day and, despite the fact that the brand's latest efforts are aimed at encouraging consumers to drink Guinness as an everyday tipple, March 17 is an essential part of the marketing strategy.
More consumers buy Guinness on St Patrick's Day than any other day of the year and in an effort to improve on the success of last year, when it was estimated that nine million pints of the black stuff were consumed, Guinness has embarked on a £3.5m marketing campaign focused primarily on the on-trade.
The brand will be supporting more than 16,000 Irish parties in pubs on Saturday, St Pat's Eve, and throughout the weekend with a "Party like the Irish" campaign. A nationwide St Patrick's Day poster campaign, clustered around pubs and within key Guinness high-volume areas, will be supported at outlet level by various point-of-sale (POS) kits.
The on-trade activity will be spearheaded by a promotion in which consumers can win a Guinness hat or fiddle and a POS kit including posters, bunting, showcards, a flag and staff t-shirts plus party atmosphere items such as balloons, streamers, green feet and "Mind the Craic" tape.
The Interbrew-owned rival stout brand, Murphy's, has stepped up its marketing activity this year with the sponsorship of a first ever St Patrick's Day festival in London. A parade from Westminster Cathedral to Trafalgar Square will be followed by a five-hour concert featuring the Dubliners, Mary Coughlan, the 70-strong Wexford Male Choir and Finbar Fury.
Karen West, marketing manager for Murphy's said: "We are ensuring that Murphy's is closely linked with London's biggest St Patrick's Day celebration in Britain. This sponsorship will communicate Murphy's rich Irish heritage, as well as its irreverent and fun personality, to the key target audience of 25-45-year-old males."
For those revellers looking for something other than a pint or ten of the black stuff, Jameson Irish Whiskey has embarked on a major marketing campaign leading up to and throughout the St Patrick's Day weekend.
As part of its long-term strategy to develop the brand as a long drink, Jameson is running two on-trade promotions under the umbrella theme of "Think of a Jameson, think a bit longer".
A Jameson "Text to Win" initiative allows customers to win a free Jameson long drink and the possibility of winning one of five long weekends for four to Dublin.
Brand owner Pernod Ricard has also distributed a branded "St Patrick's Day Tray" designed to hold two Jameson whiskeys and two pints of beer as part of a POS kit that includes bunting, balloons, posters and a bespoke optic.
Jameson also touts itself as the authentic whiskey to be used in an Irish coffee but for those publicans with little time on their hands an Irish company called Hot Irishman has introduced a quick and easy alternative.
Its Superior Irish Coffee, distributed in the UK through Malcolm Cowen, contains genuine Irish whiskey and is available in a 70cl bottle, enough for 20 Irish coffees. Publicans need only add boiling water and whipped cream.
While bunting, tokens and fiddly POS kits may push some publicans over the edge, it is not just the multi-million pound brands that will benefit. Research has proved that these kind of promotions substantially drive sales over the weekend and that once people have experienced a successful St Patrick's Day event in an outlet, they are far more likely to come back.
As the retail development manager for Guinness UDV and the man responsible for the company's involvement in the Irish Pub Concept all over the world, Peter Brook knows how to have a good craic at St Patrick's Day.
"Make it a celebration and don't just concentrate on Friday night," he said. "It's not a four or five-hour event - it's the whole weekend. Try and encourage people to celebrate all weekend. Stand back and work out who is going to be coming in and when, sort out your staffing plans and make sure you've got enough beer and glassware available.
"Get in touch with your local Irish trade board who could suggest what kind of Irish food you could have and sort out some Irish music to help persuade the usual circuit drinkers to stay in the pub for the whole night."
The St Patrick fact file
- He's not called Patrick, his real name is Maewyn Succat
- He's not Irish either - he's Welsh
- He laboured on the slopes of Slepish Mountain in Co. Antrim until he had a dream in which an angel of God persuaded him to swap his crook for Christianity
- After a brief stay in France, Patrick returned to Ireland as a missionary armed with a shamrock which he used to explain the Trinity
- He still found time to banish snakes from the Emerald Isle and according to folklore, he hoodwinked a particularly cunning serpent into a box before throwing it into the sea
- Although he died sometime between 463AD and 493AD, a period of 30 years, historians have somehow managed to narrow it down to one day - March 17.
- 1 measure of Irish whiskey
- 1 teaspoon of raw sugar or sugar syrup
- 1 heaped dessert spoon of whipped cream
- Hot strong coffee to fill the glass
Pre-warm a stemmed glass. Add the whiskey and the sugar then stir in the coffee. Float the whipped cream on top. Drink the coffee through the cream (do not stir after adding the cream).
With customers planning to party throughout the weekend, it's worth looking at some Irish specials to complement a standard menu.
If you thought Irish fayre only consisted of bacon, cabbage and potatoes then you need to visit the official website of Bord Bia, the organisation established by the Irish Government to promote Irish Food and Drink.
At www.foodisland.com you can find an eclectic mix of recipes for Irish dishes ranging from a traditional Irish breakfast (a great way to coax customers back into the pub on the Sunday) to bacon, black pudding and goat's cheese pizza!
Beef in Guinness stew
- 1kg (2 lbs) shoulder beef, cut into thin slices
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 leeks, 2 carrots, 2 celery sticks, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- 250ml (half pt) well-reduced beef stock
- 125ml (quarter pt) Irish stout
- Salt and black pepper
- 50g (2 oz) butter
- 75g (3 oz) streaky bacon, diced
- 100g (4 oz) wild mushrooms (if available) sliced
- 50g (2 oz) small onions, peeled
- 25g (1 oz) flour
Heat the oil in a large pan and brown the meat well. Remove to a pot. N