Jim Beam Thanks Troops Via VIP Contest

Jim Beam/Salute The Soliders

Jim Beam Bourbon is building on its relationship with Operation Homefront -- and its social media outreach efforts -- with a new program that includes a contest to thank members of the military with VIP sporting/music event experiences.

As part of its "Salute Soldiers with the Spirit of America" program, Beam is encouraging legal-age friends and family to nominate military service members age 21 or older for the chance to win the VIP package trips. Through June 21, the spirits brand is accepting nominations (short essays describing why the military member deserves to be honored by Jim Beam) through its Web site (jimbeam.com) and its Facebook fan page (facebook.com/jimbeam).

The grand prize winners and their nominated service members will receive packages that include transportation/accommodations and "special treatment and exclusive access" to one of four events during 2010.



The "Kentucky Bourbon Heaven" package features tickets for the famed thoroughbred stakes race at Churchill Downs on May 1, a visit to the Jim Beam distillery, and a VIP bourbon tasting and meal with Fred Noe, seventh-generation Jim Beam distiller and great-grandson of Jim Beam. Other packages include the final two days of a major golf championship at Pebble Beach; field box tickets to a pro baseball home game on Chicago's South Side; and tickets to a Kid Rock concert and the opportunity to meet the rocker himself.

To help announce the contest, Jim Beam asked Operation Homefront to select several soldiers and their buddies to be treated by the spirits brand to trips to the upcoming Super Bowl game. Some of those chosen military guests appeared on "Fox & Friends" and other shows on Feb. 2.

In addition to the contest, the brand this year will donate $150,000 to Operation Homefront and also donate (through military channels) 10,000 cases of commemorative Jim Beam bottles bearing a special "Operation Homefront" label, according to Kelly Doss, senior director of bourbon and whiskeys, Beam Global.

The brand also is providing a channel for texted donations to Operation Homefront (texting the word "SALUTE" to 90999 will add a $5 donation to the giver's phone bill), and a tool on its Facebook page for sending virtual toasts or personal messages.

Jim Beam "has been very entrenched in supporting the military throughout its long history," including ongoing support of Operation Homefront, says Doss. "All of our strategic partnerships tie into this support." Examples include the brand's sponsorship of Kid Rock's 2009 tour (50 cents of every ticket was donated to Operation Homefront) and its donation last year of 50,000 cases of the commemorative "OH" bottles of Jim Beam.

As for Jim Beam's overall marketing focus, the brand has been consciously shifting to a strategy in which social media are the "heroes" and traditional media are the "supporting cast," Doss tells Marketing Daily.

That shift began a year ago and kicked into high gear last June, with the brand's launch of a user-generated social media contest dubbed "The Remake," Doss notes. The contest supported a TV spot, "The Girlfriend," which was being aired on six major sports channels.

Legal purchase-age consumers were challenged to create their own, original remakes of that commercial (or two others posted on a campaign area within the Jim Beam site), with or without using a "director's toolbox" provided on the site. Personal promotion buttons and embeddable content enabled participants and contest viewers to start viral campaigns for their favorite videos through various social media sites.

"We've found that engaging consumers through social media -- fostering meaningful dialogue about topics they care about -- is extremely successful for us," sums up Doss, who adds that more social media initiatives will be in place by April.

At the same time, Doss stresses that Jim Beam is by no means abandoning traditional media. In fact, it's currently airing two TV commercials featuring the brand's "Guys Never Change. Neither Do We" theme. (For the few who haven't yet caught these, one features guys renting puppies to grab female attention; the other, "Girls Trump All," shows guys interrupting various activities to appreciate sexy women strolling by.)

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