The Perfect Combination

Beam Suntory Global Travel Retail Marketing Director Manuel González Soto talks about Bowmore’s premiumisation drive and the role that evocative, exclusive and limited-edition releases such as Designed by Aston Martin and Bowmore ARC-52 play in driving travel retail’s recovery. He also expounds Beam Suntory’s brand-building approach in what the company considers a pivotal channel.

“Bowmore and Aston Martin have a lot of commonalities. We both value craftsmanship, timelessness and share a British heritage,” says Manuel González Soto as ponders the shared principles that united Bowmore and Aston Martin in their latest ambitious collaboration.

“Bowmore has a legacy of time. It takes time for Bowmore to get very the best flavours out of our whiskies. Our whiskies get better with ageing which creates flavours and tasting notes through our special maturation process. That takes both patience and precision. This is similar to Aston Martin, which has extreme attention to detail throughout their design and manufacturing process. There’s a lot of synergy in this partnership.”

The collaboration forms a key component of Bowmore’s global drive towards premiumisation. “This partnership elevates our credentials and brings equity to the brand,” González says. “We launched the first Designed by Aston Martin collection with great success last year. We rolled out pop-ups in 11 key airports to amplify the launch and bring the storytelling of our two British brands to life. It was so successful that the collection quickly sold out in numerous locations.”

Manuel González Soto: “There’s a lot of synergy in this partnership”

“Bowmore and Aston Martin have a lot of commonalities. We both value craftsmanship, timelessness and share a British heritage”

To celebrate the launch of Designed by Aston Martin Series 2 and the super-premium ARC-52 expression, Bowmore is pulling out all the stops and rolling out a high-profile pop-up campaign in no less than 17 airport locations worldwide. The activations will feature immersive storytelling, gamification, tastings and vibrant retail designs.

‘Movement of the Senses’ is a shopper experience that explores the rich and vibrant histories of both Bowmore and Aston Martin, exclusively inviting travellers to ‘Experience Legacies Forged Through Time’. The in-store activations shine a spotlight on how two different worlds have come together to form a successful partnership.

Displays showcase materials from Aston Martin and Bowmore, using headphones to amplify the sounds made by both brands, and embracing interactive audio-visual content.

“It’s all about the consumer journey,” González explains. “The experience begins pre-journey, where we deliver a bit of the history of Bowmore and Aston Martin. At the airports, we will have two types of activations. We will have larger, high-profile pop-ups in seven key airport locations to showcase both the Designed by Aston Martin Series 2 and ARC-52 launches. We will also have smaller pop-ups in an additional ten locations showcasing Designed by Aston Martin.”

According to González the seven airports were chosen because of their demographic, with high-net worth individuals frequenting these chosen aviation hubs. They include airports in London, Paris, Istanbul, Hainan, Taiwan, Dubai and Singapore.

“Whenever we do this type of activation, we always target two types of audiences,” González explains.

Avid Bowmore and single malt collectors would be the most likely to be interested in owning one of these limited edition bottles, however we would not be surprised for it to appeal to a broader range of car enthusiasts as well as gift buyers.

“It gives us a glimpse into the future of super-premium spirits”

Like Designed by Aston Martin, Bowmore ARC-52 is the result of Bowmore’s ongoing partnership with the luxury car brand. The modernist decanter is visually striking, with a sculpted design that was inspired by the sleek curvatures of Aston Martin’s super cars. “We worked with the engineers and designers of Aston Martin to come up with something that was innovative, striking and visually breathtaking,” González Soto explains.

“The first time I saw the prototype, I really felt that it was something that I had never seen before. It is totally hand-crafted and unlike anything else in the industry. It gives us a glimpse into the future of super-premium spirits. I can see Bowmore evolving to have more of these types of rare expressions in the future.”

Notably, Designed by Aston Martin is launching as a global travel retail-exclusive, underlining Bowmore’s commitment to the channel and to offering a desirable and exclusive offer for its travel retail customers. He says, “Exclusivity is one of the key purchase drivers for our category. Travellers want something that isn’t available in the domestic market. We already have a portfolio of travel retail-exclusive products from Bowmore encompassing different age statements, finishings and liquids.

A brand-building channel

Designed by Aston Martin Series 1 and Series 2 offer different value propositions for our customers,” he adds. “From experience, we know that launching meaningful limited-edition collections work well for travel retail. We also know that these prestige releases can be amplified by experiential activations. Our inaugural Designed by Aston Martin launch in 2021 was hugely successful, so it was only logical to unveil the next chapter with Series 2.”

Projects such as Designed by Aston Martin and ARC-52 require heavy investment, but according to González also bring bountiful returns in terms of brand awareness and equity. “These types of projects work both on a commercial and brand-building perspective. Our partnership with Aston Martin supports Bowmore’s positioning as a luxury brand. In 2019, based on IWSR rankings, Bowmore was 13th in single malts. By 2021, we had climbed to the seventh spot. I believe this can be attributed to our renewed focus on travel retail as a brand-building channel.”

China Focus

“This performance has been further enhanced by our laser focus on increasing our Asian footprint, particularly in China,” González Soto adds. “China is a clear focus for us because there is a lot of appetite for single malts and these types of products in the country. As of 2021, we reached the fourth spot in the single malts category.”*

Commenting on the importance of China, and particularly Hainan, to Bowmore’s post-COVID strategy, González Soto says: “Hainan has been a revolution for the travel retail industry and particularly the spirits category. Thanks to Hainan we managed to overcome the loss of the rest of our China footprint and the lack of Chinese travellers globally.

“My expectation is that Chinese travellers will resume travel in the second half of 2023, which means that while Hainan may lose some part of its business, it will still play a significant role. This is especially true due to the big developments that retailers have accomplished over recent years and future plans for the Hainan Free Trade Port.”

Hainan, which has become the lighthouse of travel retail amidst the COVID crisis, is one of the core drivers for Bowmore’s global travel retail business. “We’ve now reached 2019 levels and are 100% recovered,” González Soto says. “We saw a big acceleration in 2021 which continued onto 2022 – and that is driven by our focus on Asia and Hainan especially. We have increased our footprint and deepened our penetration in Asia – so when the market goes back to normal, our preparation can only lead to positive results.”

*IWSR 2021, single malts category.

“However, if you can offer something exclusive, bring these exclusives to life with interesting activations that have gamification, eye-catching designs and special offers – that will really make passengers stop and take notice,” he adds.

“As a team we realised that creative projects, pop-ups and campaigns are the way to go in the post-COVID landscape. These activities improve the shopper experience and differentiate travel retail from the local market.

“For us, travel retail is a brand-builder channel, which serves as a shop window to the world. We are the only channel that combines off-trade and on-trade and allows brands to really interact with shoppers. This is why we invest so much time and effort in projects like this.”

Partnerships such as Bowmore’s ongoing collaboration with Aston Martin play a key role in bringing these projects and activations to life. When asked what the future holds for these two British houses, González replies, “This is a long-term partnership, where two brands enrich each other. While I can’t reveal what’s in the pipeline, I can say that you can expect to see similar initiatives and even evolved initiatives from Bowmore and Aston Martin well into the future.

“Having worked in marketing for many years, it’s quite common for a house like Bowmore to partner with different brands. However, this partnership stands out because there is real meaning behind it. This is a marriage between two brands who share common values, heritage and a particular attention to detail. Bowmore and Aston Martin – it is the perfect combination.”

Spotlight Series - August 2022

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