Time to get craic-ing for St Patrick's Day

By Robyn Lewis

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags St patrick Irish whiskey Saint patrick's day Guinness

St Patrick's Day: boost Guiness sales
St Patrick's Day: boost Guiness sales
It's time for licensees to turn their minds to all things Irish — and don't forget to order plenty of the black stuff, says Robyn Lewis.

It's time for licensees to turn their minds to all things Irish — from Gaelic drinks to

traditional music — and don't forget to order plenty of the black stuff. Robyn Lewis reports

This year St Patrick's Day, 17 March, falls on a Wednesday, which is good news for licensees looking to make the most of the Irish celebration.

"The day falling midweek is actually a double win for pubs and bars," says Guinness marketing manager Paul Cornell.

"St Patrick's Day fans will use the opportunity for a mid-week visit to the pub and will make a return on the weekend, along with everyone else who is coming in to enjoy the atmosphere."

With this in mind, canny licensees should ensure that they are pushing any promotions or events the weekend before (start on Friday 11 March), prompting your regular and weekend drinkers to start planning to spend their St Patrick's Day at your venue.

It's certainly worth the effort — Diageo reports that even venues that have never run a St Patrick's Day-related event before can experience a 15% volume uplift in sales of Guinness the first time they do so and for venues that have really made a name for themselves around the event, the figure can be as high as 75%.

"The key thing is to make sure you have something to shout about," says Cornell.

"It's no good putting up some PoS and hoping people will come. Where licensees really see a sales boost for St Patrick's Day is when they have put in the effort, perhaps by hosting live music, serving Irish food, running a quiz or whatever."

With this in mind, Diageo is this year sending out fewer but more tailored kits (around 18,000 compared to the usual 25,000) and giving selected outlets a hand with putting on live music and other related events.

"This year is about really focusing on customising the offer for each outlet," confirms Cornell.

"Rather than just sending out prescriptive promotions, we had individual conversations with licensees and regional chains to come up with something that really suits their punters — it's not one size fits all."

Diageo will also be supporting events in key Irish communities such as north-west London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Coventry and Manchester, where Guinness will sponsor the St Patrick's Day parade.

It will also be ploughing £0.5m into consumer marketing, reminding drinkers to get out and enjoy the day through advertising and an extensive Facebook campaign, which has been designed to drive consumers to their local.

How (not) to dye your Guinness green and other essential questions

Members of the 24-strong team at the Diageo Customer Relationship Centre (CRC) in north London are readying themselves for one of the busiest times of the year, as St Patrick's Day approaches — 95% of the 135,698 calls a year handled at the CRC at Diageo HQ concern Guinness and, as the Irish celebration approaches, calls from licensees with problems, requests and queries reach a peak.

The team aims to solve as much as 70% of queries over the phone and where this isn't possible an engineer is dispatched to the premises as soon as possible.

The majority of Guinness-related calls concern flat, slow or not flowing beer, and are mostly problems related to the nozzle (though it could also be related to the gas or keg), which can get clogged with yeast cells if not cleaned regularly. For this the team can get a licensee to run through a number of checks over the phone to solve the issue and will send out spare nozzles.

Other common problems include fobbing and temperature issues, both of which are most likely due to problems with the cooler or in the cellar.

Around this time of year the team also get calls from proactive licensees wanting PoS material and glassware, or for tips and advice in time for St Patrick's Day.

One of the more bizarre questions the team has ever fielded was a query on how to dye Guinness green. The answer? Don't — adding food colouring might seem harmless, but it doesn't work and can cause all sorts of problems.

Beyond the black

Of course, St Patrick's Day isn't just about Guinness and there are plenty of other Irish drinks brands you could promote.

Fellow drinks in the Diageo stable such as Baileys Irish Cream and Irish whiskey Bushmills will surely go down well. Alternatively try Jameson served as an Irish Mule, suggests Patrick Venning, head of marketing for whiskies at brand-owner Pernod Ricard.

"We think the Irish Mule is the perfect signature drink for Jameson and is a vital ingredient for a great St Patrick's Day for licensees."

Mix 50ml Jameson, 17.5ml fresh lime juice, 200ml ginger beer and 17.5ml angostura bitters; serve in a tall glass with ice and a lime wedge.

But drinks don't need an Irish heritage to have an impact. RTD brand WKD always adds its irreverent spin to the day and flavoured sambuca brand Luxardo is introducing the Jedward "shotail". The short cocktail is made with 25ml each of Luxardo Spiced Apple sambuca and Midori. "Just pour each of the two green spirits over the back of a bar spoon to layer them in a shot glass," says mixologist Peter Thornton.

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