Miller Jet Tour and Encore raise promo sky bar high

Sky Bar is L.A.'s most exclusive hot spot. Situated to the side of the Mondrian Hotel on Sunset Blvd. it is a favourite hangout of young Hollywood establishment, world-class supermodels, rock stars and where I met up with the Miller Jet...

Sky Bar is L.A.’s most exclusive hot spot. Situated to the side of the Mondrian Hotel on Sunset Blvd. it is a favourite hangout of young Hollywood establishment, world-class supermodels, rock stars and where I met up with the Miller Jet Tour and the team from Toronto-based Encore Encore Strategic Marketing a fortnight ago.

It was the latest stop in a whirlwind tour for some 200 Miller contest winners – from such far-flung countries as Turkey and Poland – Miller distributors and Encore reps (not to mention a few well-soaked ‘journos’ from around the globe). The group had already crisscrossed the U.S. on the MJT private jet, with stops in New York, where they lodged at the Waldorf Astoria, and San Francisco, where they took in the soulful tunes of James Brown, the Godfather of Soul himself.

This is an annual global promotion that allows Miller to reach out to new and emerging markets using a multitude of highly integrated marketing methods. As promos go, this one has style and more than a touch of class. It also marked the second Miller Jet Tour, the concept for which was designed by Encore – an agency specializing in sports and entertainment marketing.

Sound a little on the pricey side? It is, with Miller International subsidizing the program to make it affordable to markets where it is currently cultivating the brand. In exchange, the region’s distributors pay a couple of thousand per grand prize – ballpark – and the cost of flights from point of origin to Chicago, and return.

The promo’s on-the-ground marketing in each territory also differs. Greg Plowe, director of international marketing for Miller Brewing Company says that, ‘In Canada, it may be on-air radio promotions that give exposure to the consumers in the marketplace. In Brazil, it could be a retail trade promotion, so buy five or 10 cases of Miller and get an automatic entry to win the trip. In the U.K., a lot of the winners this time were from an on-pack off-trade promotion, where every time they bought a six-pack there was an entry form they could use to win the Jet Tour. But the previous tour was based all on on-premise promotions: bar nights and giveaways.’

One of the key elements here is customer and distributor loyalty in unique markets outside of the U.S. ‘One of the wonderful designs of this program is flexibility. When we go into a market we say, ‘Here are the tools, and here is what the component tools cost. How do you want to best use them?” says Plowe, adding that one of the great benefits of a program such as this is that it is relevant to so many markets around the world. When he presents the promotional material in places like Poland or Italy, the reaction is always very positive, he says.

The vastness of the promo is why there are no sales results on a global basis, according to Plowe. ‘To roll all of that up into a collective and say that we increased volume by this many cases and had this voice and that number of displays is impossible to do, because it varies dramatically how this is executed by market.’ Because each market varies so dramatically, a big part of Miller’s goal is to make sure it has the tools to fulfill its current business marketing needs.

‘The challenge was how to make a big idea work all around the world,’ says Lianne Carter, group account director at Encore for Miller International. ‘Miller International has a global program that is being customized in over 23 countries and getting rave reviews both internally and from their consumers and distributors.’ So much so, in fact, that the domestic Miller Genuine Brand team has ‘borrowed’ the jet tour concept and is at the tail end of running the promo in the U.S.

Taking part in the Miller Jet Tour USA event is only a portion of what Encore does for Miller. It starts with the idea, and extends to developing the POP and designing the look, writing scripts, producing the TV spots, working with the field to manage local production timelines, developing rules and regulations, working with local and national Miller partners (MTV last year), developing the whole slew of winner documentation and so on. Says Carter, ‘It’s field marketing, it’s sales promotion, it’s advertising, it’s event marketing.’ Not to mention fulfillment. And this, folks, was no ordinary fulfillment.

Contest winners are essentially treated like rock stars for the entire time. Witness the lobby of the newly renovated W Hotel in Chicago – nothing to scoff at, by the way – where the nifty, walkie-talkie-bearing event team, led by Carter, glides across the marble floor attending to the varied needs of their worldly guests. In the background a DJ, not of the greasy goateed variety, but of the neo-pagan goddess mould, spins lounge music at the top of the stairs in the mezzanine, while other guests sip Chardonnay at a stylish bar.

‘We incorporated a ton of learning from last year’s program,’ says Carter. ‘After going through it once, we were able to develop a tighter flow. It’s rare to have the opportunity to make something better each year. It allows us to refine and add to the idea. Most times you get just one shot at it. We also developed a pretty intensive post evaluation form to gather input from all of the Miller reps from around the world. It’s important for our regional Miller partners to play a part in the evaluation and potential ideas for future programs. Their responses [from last year] were the reason we added another jet tour to the calendar.’

While the tour has no doubt provided a solid promotional opportunity for emerging growth markets around the world, Carter feels that, ‘The reason why the regions have embraced the program so positively is because the Jet Tour provides the ‘Bigness’ that the brand deserves, while being affordable to the smaller promotional budgets that these countries may have.’ This speaks to the idea that this promo is a long-term strategy for the brewery, because some markets simply don’t have the means to support this on their own.

‘It has also been the driving force for a consistent promotional message that aligns with the newly established global brand positioning for Miller Genuine Draft that we just completed with Miller,’ says Carter. The promotional message is that abroad, Miller product appeals to a sense of urban hip in America. It is marketed and sold as premium beer with that styling in mind.