The result? Nearly 30 bottles rung
up in three hours. “That’s just one case
where the retailer can see immediately
the value in having a good brand ambas-
sador visit,” Brooking says.
Depending on the situation, an am-
bassador—a title loosely given to a non-
salesperson who represents a spirit—can
be anything from a presenter working a
single market to a global spokesperson
for a brand or company, and a lot of
Lately, most of the industry atten-
tion has gone to the numerous brand
ambassadors working on-premise, as
conventional wisdom insists that’s
where brands crack the code to growth,
and where a charismatic individual can
transfer brand-specific exuberance at the
frontlines of the drinking scene. But as
innovative expressions and new spirits
keep entering the market, some sup-
pliers are increasing their attention to
stores, where true volume is built—and
where one brand’s edge over others in
the minds of salespeople can have long-
term impact. Indeed, “gatekeepers” are
to be found both behind the stick and on
the retail floor these days.
Today, in the spirit of mutual benefit,
retailers are seeking out brand ambas-
sadors more often, and planning more
These days retail stores are well
equipped to hand-sell brands,” says
Charlotte Voisey, portfolio ambassa-
dor for William Grant & Sons USA.
Their employees have a similar role to
the bartender through their direct cus-
tomer interaction. This makes them a
key part of the puzzle for a brand ambas-
sador’s mission. Sometimes the jewels in
a store are not those brands that splash
all over television; they might lack a
little in public awareness. So how will
the customer find the best bottle for
them? A little guidance, some product
knowledge, an educated recommenda-
tion from a store employee.”
Enter the brand ambassador.
John Henry, a New York-based brand
builder who has worked for such spirits
as Maker’s Mark, says that suppliers are
starting to focus off-premise to build
awareness and then develop on-premise
recruitment. “A retailer is much better
positioned in today’s market to be the
brand builder, as bartenders are usually
too busy to do much focused hand-selling.
Retailers who develop rapport with cus-
tomers do so for both the brand and their
own store connection,” he says.
Suppliers are responding to the need
by redirecting their ambassadorial re-
sources to the off-premise, says Steve
Chasen, director of trade marketing for
Pernod-Ricard USA, which has 40 am-
bassadors in the field.
The quality and variety of spirits
has exploded, as has consumer interest
and knowledge, and they thirst for more.
imon Brooking, who represents Laphroaig and
Ardmore Single Malt Scotches for Beam Global, recently
devised a presentation for a New Jersey retailer. There
to speak and pour, Brooking also arranged for the
Laphroaig distillery manager to lead the tasting every 15 minutes
via the Internet, making a significant impression on the customers
filing through the store.
master ambassador of Canadian whisky for Beam Global, sees his role
as making a connection with trade partners, and putting a face to the brand name.
In-Store Training, Pouring
Important Than Ever
BY JACK ROBERTIELLO