It started out as a club in London, frequented by the hippest
member of the capital’s club scene.
But last week the Ministry of Sound confirmed its credentials as a
global brand with the news that it is close to signing a marketing deal
with British American Tobacco.
Although details remain under wraps, the tie-up will see BAT brands
including State Express 555, Benson & Hedges and Lucky Strike promoted
in Ministry of Sound-branded clubs across China, Russia and Eastern
Europe. It comes at a good time for BAT, which with other cigarette
manufacturers is facing the prospect of further restrictions on its
promotional techniques as a result of European Union legislation.
In the UK, the Ministry of Sound is now well-established as a venue keen
to strike marketing deals with brands aimed at the 18- to 24-year-old
market - a group of consumers increasingly hard to reach through
established mass media. The club has also worked with Absolut, fragrance
brand Quiddity and J17.
’Essentially we aim to look for mutual objectives,’ says Helen McMillan,
commercial business development manager at the Ministry of Sound. ’We
can benefit from the support of brand monies, while the brand benefits
from the lifestyle association.’
BAT, which has already sponsored club nights with the Ministry of Sound
in Asia and the UK, will undoubtedly find young consumers in Asia and
Eastern Europe are an easier target audience than those in the UK. Here,
the number of brands seeking to tie-in with clubs to heighten their
appeal among this trend-setting group of consumers is growing
And, as young consumers become more frequently targeted in clubs,
marketers are having to work hard to gain acceptance.
In the UK an estimated 2.5 million young consumers go clubbing every
week. According to youth research and marketing consultancy Informer,
they visit clubs for two reasons. The first is hedonism; to have fun and
escape from reality. The second, more significant, reason is the desire
for a feeling of ’belonging’ gained by being part of a joint experience
In such an environment, this highly cynical, marketing-literate group
becomes an attractive audience that is likely to be more receptive to
’People go to clubs in part for escapism,’ say Martin Brooks, a director
at Claydon Heeley, which has worked with brands including Elida
Faberge’s Fusion and Sony PlayStation. ’This mean their guard may be
down a bit, and the filter they use to resist marketing messages seen on
the street is lessened.’
If you succeed in persuading them to adopt new habits the benefits can
be considerable. ’This age group tend to be establishing patterns of
consumption which are likely to remain in place for some time,’ says
Brands need attitude
Despite this, marketers need to proceed cautiously. ’The potential for
club tie-ups is less than it was a few years go,’ says Ian Pierpoint,
associate director at Informer. ’This is because there are so many
brands wanting a slice of the youth market. If you are thinking about
promoting your brand through clubs you need to make sure there is a fit,
either in terms of the product or through the brand attitude.’
Young consumers know when they are being targeted, so marketers need to
ensure that they can add something to the consumer experience: ’People
go to a club to drink, dance and meet people,’ says McMillan, ’and
whatever you do has to enhance that environment. The worst thing you can
do is try to push something they don’t want.’
It is no longer enough to simply rely on a sponsorship banner, branded
T-shirts or a brand logo projected on to the wall: ’You need to provide
entertainment and to ensure there is some synergy between the club and
the experience provided; to ensure that, in the eyes of the clubber, you
have a reason to be there,’ says Sandra Hussey, account director at
youth marketing specialist FFI.
’This also means making sure there is a product listing in the club.
This may be costly, but it does give the brand the opportunity to recoup
FFI has worked with brands including Rizla and Evian. Rizla provided
pop-art bar installations including stools, tables and ambient lighting
for bar areas in clubs in London, Birmingham and Manchester while FFI
has helped Evian create a tranquil ’Garden of Evian’ in Leeds club
With its waterfall backdrop, branded stools and glass-domed tables,
which have jets of water firing out underneath the top, the Garden of
Evian has been designed as an area where clubbers can relax and cool
’Evian has been appropriated by the youth market, so we are trying to
foster that in a positive way,’ says Darren Thomas, senior brand manager
for Evian. ’We are trying to enhance the club environment and, at the
same time, make our brand more credible and relevant to this
Brands signing up for marketing deals with clubs have two broad
objectives: brand-building among a youth audience, or active recruiting
of new consumers via sampling. Often it is a bit of both.
Cider brand Strongbow is using its sponsorship of the Ministry of
Sound’s The Annual Tour, to encourage product trial in clubs across the
UK. Clubbers are met on arrival at a venue with the offer of a free
sample of Strongbow, while bar promotions encourage them to purchase the
drink throughout the evening.
Provoking a response
Male fragrance brand Lynx has also used clubs to trial new products.
Aware that squirting men with fragrance would alienate them, marketing
agency Claydon Heeley created the Lynx Minxes, a group of wild female
dancers who performed at clubs, before girls moved through the audience
offering free samples: ’We tried to get the audience in the right frame
of mind before sampling the product,’ says Brooks.
Condom brand Durex recently launched the Pleasure Principle Club Tour,
complete with top DJs. By offering free samples through the clubs, Durex
not only encouraged trial of its new brand, Oblivion, but also
established its credentials with this audience by promoting a safer sex
Clubs also provide an ideal environment for brands with a more
controversial image. First Drinks Brands recently launched a club tour
in the north of England to promote its white wine, vodka and fruit juice
A racy promotion, in which a group of Taboo hunks strip down as the
audience consumes more Taboo, is designed both to stimulate trial and
entertain the audience.
’Taboo is a quite a provocative brand, aimed at a fun-loving, confident
female audience and the nightclub context allows us to reflect this,’
says Chris Meredith, marketing director at First Drinks Brands. ’You can
be more outrageous and party harder in clubs.’
Yet there is sometimes a fine line between brands which include
consumers in their experience and those which are deemed to intrude. And
the perils of overstepping the mark can be severe.
’The general rule when marketing to this audience is to get as close to
them as you can,’ says Pierpoint. ’But the closer you get the more
careful you have to be. If they don’t buy your message it can actually
have a negative effect on your brand.’
IN THE CLUB: HOW BRANDS HAVE SOUGHT YOUTH ACCEPTANCE
- Durex: Recently launched club tour - the Pleasure Principle Tour -
includes sampling of Durex Oblivion condoms.
- Evian: Created ’garden’ installations based on the Evian selling
propositions of purity and tranquillity in clubs in Leeds and
- Fusion: The Fusion brand was introduced via merchandise and
sponsorship at the UK festival Tribal Gathering, ahead of the launch of
Elida Faberge’s unisex perfume.
- Lynx: Promoted the brand via club tours of up to 50 venues across the
UK featuring the ’Lynx Minxes’: glamorous girls who danced on stage and
encouraged trial of new Lynx variants.
- PlayStation: Installed games pods in clubs across the UK to trial and
drive sales of new PlayStation games.
- Rizla: Created furniture installations in clubs in Birmingham,
Manchester and London.
- Strongbow: Sponsor of The Annual Roadshow, a travelling club run by
the Ministry of Sound.
- Taboo: Currently running a promotion in clubs in the north of the
country in which hunky men strip off as the audience consumes more