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St Patrick's Day falls on a Friday this year, so why not make a full weekend of it?St Patrick's Day 2006 is set for craic like no other. Not only...

St Patrick's Day falls on a Friday this year, so why not make a full weekend of it?

St Patrick's Day 2006 is set for craic like no other. Not only does March 17 fall on a Friday - giving your customers an excuse to celebrate for the whole weekend - but it coincides with the Cheltenham Gold Cup and, on the Saturday, the climax of the RBS Six Nations rugby, with England playing Ireland in what could well be the clash that decides the tournament.

Coming out of a dreary winter, this could be just the fillip your business needs. One man who's certainly looking forward to it is Guinness brand manager Neil Skinner. The Irish stout has managed to attach itself pretty firmly to the annual celebrations all round the world, and this time he is sure it will be massive.

"We've been supporting St Patrick's Day for some time, but we want to create a bigger and better party each year," he says. "There is always a massive increase in footfall for the trade, but this year licensees will be able to take advtange of the other things that are going on and there is the opportunity for one of the biggest ever St Patrick's Days.

"We have always encouraged licensees to use our point-of-sale kits, but this year we will be extending them as we are looking to take St Patrick's Day over the whole weekend.

"For example, licensees have the chance to put on an Irish lunch at Friday lunchtime. They can build the footfall from there and keep it for the whole weekend.

"There will be promotions where if you buy four pints of Guinness you will be given badges, banners, flags and hats - and they will help build the atmosphere and fun in the venue."

Guinness is also producing specific point-of-sale material for the racing and the rugby as well as food promotions, and it will all be supported by big above-the-line advertising with £2.5m being spent through the spring.

The brand can also argue that it is even more appropriate now that Draught Guinness is being imported from the Dublin brewery.

"We find that focused regional advertising works really well, so we support local Irish festivals and St Patrick's Day parades and also hook up with Irish pub chains," says Neil.

"I would also encourage licensees to run sampling sessions - we want more people to enjoy the Guinness experience in pubs.

"I believe that last St Patrick's Day an extra 2.5 million pints were drunk - we served five million pints of Guinness in total.

"There is a great buzz among consumers for St Patrick's Day this year and the day is coming at a great time for us."

Guinness isn't the only drinks brand with Irish roots that is looking for a boost on St Pat's, of course. Pernod Ricard's Jameson Irish Whiskey has already had a terrific response from the trade to its party kits.

"It's a great night for Jameson and this year we have invested heavily in promotional support for pubs," says Lee James, Pernod Ricard's customer development director. "It's important that Jameson shows support for the trade on potentially one of their busiest nights of the year. This year we have introduced a t-shirt gift with purchase promotion which should appeal to the Jameson's consumer and drive revenue for the licensee."

Tips for licensees

  • Publicise the day well in advance
  • Have an Irish-themed menu
  • Music - do you want to book an Irish band?
  • Make sure beer dispense quality is spot-on
  • Publicise the fact this is the first year customers will be drinking Dublin-brewed Guinness.

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