By Jenny Berg Posted March 14, 2012, 6:25 AM EDT
Unlike some tequila brands, Patrón is not in the habit of courting business from the spring break crowd. Instead, the tequila puts its marketing dollars toward spreading this message: To appreciate Patrón is to be part of an elite club.
Owned by the Patrón Spirits Company, the brand hosts about 10 stand-alone events and more than 250 total activations each year. The internal planning team is spread across the United States: Director of events Pam Dzierzanowksi is in Los Angeles, and reporting to her are national events manager Diane Green in Chicago and national events manager Chenoa Johnson in New York. According to Green, roughly 25 percent of the marketing budget is allocated to events, and the event budget rose about 10 percent in 2011.
With the Patrón Social Club, which launched in 2007, the beverage’s fans are invited to events through a members-only Web site that tracks engagement and rewards loyalty. “We include members in all of our events, whether we produce them or sponsor them, by means of sweepstakes-style email blasts,” Green says. “We invite the most active members to the more exclusive events.”
Those upper-echelon happenings include the Secret Dining Society events, which had seven iterations in 2011. Dinners took place in Miami, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, St. Louis, and Minneapolis; in 2012, there are dinners planned in Boston, South Carolina, Idaho, and Nashville. The intimate sit-down meals pair courses from a well-known chef with intricate tequila cocktails, and take place in quirky or historic locations that are revealed to guests at the last minute.
For the August dinner in Chicago, social club members were notified via email that they’d been selected to attend with little advance notice. They followed a series of scavenger-hunt-style clues to meet at a Lincoln Park street corner where they were blindfolded and taken via trolley to a warehouse space.
The room had been transformed into a candlelit, flower-filled, and branded dining room where chef Rick Bayless prepared seasonal items such as bacon-tomato guacamole. A local mixologist made tequila cocktails with ingredients like spiced watermelon and mango froth.
Slickly produced videos of each dinner appear on the social club’s Web site with showcase menus, recipes, and chefs touting the tequila’s ability to bring out the flavor of certain ingredients. The events met what Green identified as one of their key goals: teaching consumers new ways to use, mix, and pair the tequilas.
Toward the same end, the company sponsored the 1,200-guest “Art of the Taco” event during the New York City Wine & Food Festival in the fall. Hosted by celebrity chef Bobby Flay, the bash let some 30 chefs prepare their versions of the classic Mexican snack. Pairings included Patrón-infused popsicles and XO Café Mexican hot chocolate, and brand reps offered tequila tastings and mini educational sessions. The event succeeded in garnering Social Club members.
“Even in this difficult economic climate, our brands continue to grow,” Green says. “We were up about 10 percent in 2011 versus 2010. Our marketing and events certainly play a role in that.” The Patrón Social Club, she adds, “has been extremely effective in doing exactly what we created it to do: build loyalty among those who enjoy our tequilas. What’s most exciting to us is that we continually receive emails from people who are surprised and delighted by the benefits of membership, whether it’s a small gift we send them or exclusive access to the event.”