By Anna Sekula Posted July 19, 2011, 9:00 AM EDT
As beverage companies continue to look for ways to solidify their position in the marketplace or expand a brand's footprint, an increasing number are moving beyond mere event sponsorships to partnerships with like-minded organizations that produce more concrete promotional efforts. Earlier this year, Hendrick's Gin allied with U.K.-based explorer-turned-fund-raising group the Adventurists to create a global series of outings that host unusual speakers in a British afternoon-tea setting. Starting in London with sailor Sir Chay Blyth on February 5 and followed by Madrid with Jesús Garcia Barcala on June 11, the venture hit the U.S. on July 9, bringing Venezuelan cave explorer Charles Brewer Carias and about 100 guests to Philadelphia's Union League club.
The Adventurists raise funds for charity by organizing international events like the “Rickshaw Run” and the “Mongol Rally,” which challenge participants to do things like drive across 10,000 miles of desert in a small car or take a three-wheeled automobile known as a rickshaw across northwest India.
“One of the things that drew us to the Adventurists was that it's kind of old-world adventure. That's what adventure and exploration was hundreds of years ago, and Hendrick's appreciates everything that comes from the old world,” said Hendrick's Global brand manager Deirdre Clark. “The 'Afternoon Teas' are really a look back to the past and an appreciation of the past, where intrepid explorers would have also enjoyed a nice afternoon tea. We thought that by collaborating together, we could bring quite an unusual event to the world.”
The partnership is designed to generate awareness for both organizations. “What we're trying to do for the Adventurists is help them get an international profile. It is a charity and, from Hendrick's point of view, we like to work with people who strive to make the world that little bit better,” Clark said. “They share their database, ideas, and their speakers with us, and we share our global reach.”
To emphasize a more old-fashioned sense of exploration and adventure, the organizers sought out unusual venues and personalities to talk. For instance, the site of the event in London was an old chapel in the borough of Hackney and the guest speaker Sir Chay Blyth, a man best known for circumnavigating the world by boat the wrong way around—that is, against the prevailing winds and currents. In the U.S., Hendrick's and the Adventurists scouted places in New York and San Francisco before selecting the Union League club, a building constructed in 1865 for the oldest association of supporters for the Union and President Abraham Lincoln. Charles Brewer Carias, who had previously never spoken outside his home country, talked about leading more than 200 expeditions, discovering the world's largest quartzite cave, and the various species of flora and fauna named for him. Maloney & Fox handled PR.
And to keep the focus on the content, the events in the global series are intimate, with guest lists between 100 and 200 people. The only exception was the first, which drew 350 in London, a location where Hendrick's and the Adventurists have the largest following. “We try to keep them as small and as intimate as possible, because the speakers need to get their message across,” Clark said.
Hendrick's Gin and the Adventurists plan to take the Afternoon Tea series to Melbourne, Australia, next, followed by Edinburgh, Scotland, on October 15.