Producing the Nightlife: An Inside Look on How Bars Get Ready For a Successful Night

5/3/2018

 

By Crystal D. Higgins, Digital Marketing Intern, Breakthru Beverage Group

When I started my internship at Breakthru Beverage Group earlier this year, I was excited because I would have the opportunity to create content and learn about the various facets within the alcohol industry. 

The bonus would be working at the same company as my cousin, Jeffrey Mimms, who focuses on the multicultural division as a strategic activation specialist.

I was fortunate to be able to spend a day in the field with him and truly learn what this role entails—and what he does to reach the multicultural demographic with two of our key suppliers, Brown-Forman and Remy Martin.

Jeff is a part of the A.D.S., or Account Development Specialist, team, which is in a division of the sales team.

“I work in tandem with the sales reps and suppliers to grow business within the accounts, specifically for Brown-Forman and Remy Martin for the multicultural market,” Jeff said.

Before working at Breakthru, Jeff worked at a multicultural entertainment marketing company for four years. While there, he established imperative alcohol industry relationships within the Chicago market and worked alongside key people from Brown-Forman. Jeff helped put together an experiential marketing campaign for Jack Daniel’s Honey, and the rest was history.

When he first started explaining his role to me, I thought he was a sales consultant and didn’t quite understand. 

“I probably hear this question about six times a day because it can be confusing until it’s explained,” Mimms joked.

Jeff’s primary role is to leverage sales within the Brown-Forman and Remy Martin portfolios and to build relationships with multicultural accounts. He’s responsible for activating product programs and events for on-premise accounts so they can maximize on their investment. In addition to filling their point-of-sale (POS) needs, Jeff helps facilitate sponsorship opportunities and tasting programs. He also endorses Brown-Forman and Remy Martin products that are specifically placed on the back bar, as well as negotiate the menu placement in these accounts.

Day in the Field with Jeff

Jeff invited me to spend a day with him out in the field and I was ecstatic; ready to see Jeff in action.

Since strategic activation specialists don’t have an office space, their job is completely mobile. For the first meeting, we drove to a coffee shop and met with Jeronimo Rodriquez, the multicultural marketing manager for Brown-Forman. After greeting each other kindly, they got down to work and began prioritizing the top multicultural accounts based upon Nightlife, AACM (African-American Consumer Market) and the Hispanic consumer before they went to visit their accounts. Jeff explained to me that their focus was to grow the portfolios for various Breakthru bars, restaurants and nightclub accounts, so they prioritized them accordingly.

Throughout the meeting, Mimms and Rodriguez stressed that building true relationships is crucial.

“Real relationship-building stems from the highest management all the way to the entry-level position,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t care who you are, I’m going to treat you the same. Taking the time to get to know someone goes a long way in this industry.”

When they finished up, Jeff and I went to visit one of his accounts in the Chicago’s South Loop and I immediately witnessed Jeff’s passion when we visited bar co-owner Josh Davis. Davis and Mimms greeted one another like old friends and conversed with ease.

“Jeff’s one of those dudes who actually cares about you,” Davis said.” He’s not pushy and knows how to communicate with me, so when he helps me out I try and do the same.”

As Jeff humbly accepts the compliment, he quickly pulls out a few Brown-Forman products and suggests putting together an event for customers to taste various Jack Daniel’s whiskeys with whiskey flights. Davis is immediately on board, and cleans the bar top off, preparing it for cocktail creations while Jeff talks to him about a previous event that Davis held at his bar not long ago. As they discussed a Jack Daniel’s event, as well as a happy hour with Herradura, it was nice to see the give and take from both sides, and comradery between them, as they could work towards an agreement quickly and easily.

Throughout the day, I soaked up as much as I could and saw just how welcoming his accounts were. There were sincere smiles, inside jokes, hugs and conversations that went beyond the product. Jeff was truly building upon the great relationships he established, and it was quite impressive.

When we hit our final account, bar co-owner Pam Fakhouri and Jeff were doing menu placement adjustments. It’s the most coveted area on the menu and it must be earned.

“Having your product on my menu is like gold,” Fakhouri said. “Customers see drink selections and usually go with what we suggest because they trust us.  Jeff deserves a spot, because he’s always taking care of me, so I make sure to take care of him.” 

After the first part of business was taken care of, they moved on to discussing future events, space availability and product placement at the bar.

“Now that Jeff’s here, the conversation is what can we do to sell this product, not just how much are you going to buy,” Fakhouri said as Jeff silently nodded in agreement. “When we discuss what events are coming up and what products work best for these events and food items, Jeff really cares. Knowing that Jeff cares about me and my bar rather than just making a sale means a lot.”

The top takeaway from the day: for a strategic activation specialist, relationship building is everything. For Jeff, it’s something he does effortlessly, but it means a great deal to him. “I’m making a difference in my job because I take a personal interest,” Jeff said. “A little TLC goes a long way.”

The Nightlife

After hearing all about Jeff’s upcoming events during my day in the field with him, I had to see these events for myself.

The events for the evening featured several of his key brands, including Korbel Rosé, Gentlemen Jack and Jack Daniel’s Honey. Before I shadowed Jeff for the evening, though, I spoke to Dianna Grier, the beverage director at the bar and restaurant hosting the two Jack Daniel’s events.

 “We don’t do a lot of branding,” Grier said. “Our company wants to stay branded as our bar, but we do accept branded events as long as they align with what our business represents and cater to our customer demographic.”

Keeping their business’s brand pure was a top priority, and Jeff was someone who respected that agenda.

“Jeff is really easy to work with because he understands our business,” Grier said. “He understands what I can’t do in terms of sponsorship and he doesn’t push for that. He focuses on what he can do and never pitches things to me that don’t make sense for our customer demographic.”

As I heard this, I thought back to what Jeff had told me when I was with him in the field.

“Multicultural markets are often overlooked in many industries,” Jeff said. “They don’t understand what these customers like and dislike, what they want and what they’re interested in. So, I take pride in bringing programming, ideas and value to this market and there is no greater feeling or reward knowing I’m making a difference.”

When I met up with Jeff for the evening’s events, the first thing we did was pick up the banners and promo materials for an event activation. He was prepping another account for an upcoming activation and wanted to be prepared early on.

Immediately following, we went to setup the promotional materials for the Jack Daniel’s events and prepped everything for the brand ambassadors. They would arrive shortly before the event to get the drinks ready to be served. After making sure everything was good to go, he messaged the brand ambassadors, giving them specific, detailed instructions, so they wouldn’t have any issues before we got back to help and see how the event was going. 

Once everything was settled, we went to the Korbel Rosé event. It was lively and entertaining, surrounding the excitement of the festive venue, and he quickly met up with a field marketing manager that had led the event. Jeff explained to me that the idea of the Korbel Rosé event was to localize the national competition they were sponsoring with this particular restaurant. Jeff had helped setup and execute this activated promotion a little earlier and aided in negotiations with the restaurant’s promotions team.

We stayed for a while, helping where we could, and then we were off to the Gentleman Jack Event. When we arrived, they were getting ready for the DJ battle. It was cool to walk past the winding line of people waiting to get in and watch Jeff as he heartily greeted the men at the door. It felt like Jeff knew everyone in the Chicago nightlife scene, and I was really impressed.

Inside, he first went to talk to the brand ambassadors, making sure they were ready for the event, and answered all their last-minute questions and concerns. Then he took me to the bar and checked to make sure the drink special for the night was printed correctly.

He explained to me that having a drink special paired alongside a branded event is a perfect combination.

“Having the customers sample the product is a given,” Jeff said. “But having an exclusive special drink at exclusive price really helps to move the product in addition to having the brand represented.”

Once the event began, he monitored everything and worked in tandem with Grier, who we had met previously.

Things were off to a solid start, so after a while, we left to pick up feature cards for another account. (Feature cards advertise upcoming branded events at a venue.) It was for a nightclub, so the atmosphere was wild. We had to maneuver through throngs of dancing bodies to get to the bars. But he wanted to get the word out about the upcoming event with placement of the feature cards.

“This club is always packed with a line down the street,” Jeff said. “It’s one of my favorites because the events here always sell out ahead of time and the owners are really cool because they’re always asking me to put events together.”

I immediately saw people looking at the feature cards we placed on the bar tables and knew that the upcoming event would be a success. But also, by this point, it was around two in the morning and I was exhausted. I hadn’t realized how tiring Jeff’s job was, but I was so wrong! He was humored but thoughtful enough to let me call it a night, and I was extremely grateful. Even though I went home, Jeff had to go back to the Jack Daniel’s event to continue to monitor the progress and wait until it was over to take everything down.

I thanked Jeff for the fun I had shadowing him, but on my way home, I reflected on how hard-working Jeff clearly is. A strategic activation specialist does so much for their accounts. Aside from maintaining strong relationships, they have to be creative enough to come up with an event, and more specifically an event best suited for the account’s customer demographics. They must work in tandem with several different people to pull off a successful program and execute it down to the very end.

It’s a taxing job, yet very rewarding, and Jeff made it look effortless.

 

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