Sponsoring sporting events is certainly big business nowadays, and with 12 years’ worth of sponsorship the name of Martell Cognac had certainly become synonymous with the most famous horse race in the UK – The Grand National.

However, although the link between the two was well known, it didn’t actually do a great deal for Martell’s sales.  Well it didn’t, that is, until direct action was taken by the UK advertising agency, Yellow Submarine.

Research had shown that whilst many people knew that it was the ‘Martell Cognac Grand National,’ barely anyone understood what drinking Martell Cognac was all about.  So the logical step was to raise this awareness.  However, this needed to be done with care, as whilst Martell wanted to attract a new and younger audience, they also didn’t want to alienate their core fans – which in general included men aged over 50.

Horse Jumps 1995

What was put into place included the following:

  • Press advertising in the weeks leading up to the race.  These appeared in the national daily papers as well as racing specific literature.
  • Posters at prime commuter sites throughout the UK.
  • Banner advertising on Martell’s website, Aintree’s website (the racecourse where the Grand National is held) and betting websites.
  • A dedicated email campaign.

The out and out winner of all of these strategies was the direct email campaign.

Martell Grand National Horse Racing

30,000 emails were sent out to Martell’s database of customers, as well as targeted ‘cold’ emails to various sources.  These featured racing related comedy clips and encouraged the recipient to forward it on by rewarding them with entry into a free prize draw.  All of these emails directed the reader to a specially prepared Martell Cognac microsite.

This microsite gave the visitor everything they needed to download to run their own sweepstake for the race.  Bars, pubs and cash & carrys also entered into the swing of the event, with drink tokens and other prizes being supplied for staff to give as prizes.  As well as this, everything provided was emblazoned with Martell logos, and for those who chose the winning horse they won a round of Martell Cognac.

The advertising strategy certainly proved lucrative, with Martell reporting an increase in sales of 17 per cent.  Around 30,000 people clicked through to the microsite, and it was estimated that 1.2 million people took part in sweepstakes.  Martell added approximately 1,500 new names to its database, and bar and pub activity included around 640,000 consumers.  Cash & Carry sweepstakes were estimated to have grabbed the attention of around 660,000 shoppers.

A Plate of the Sponsoring Event

All in all the campaign proved a resounding success.  Indeed it became the blueprint for future similar marketing.  This took place in 2003, and has been something that’s been imitated many times.  But this first attempt really did end up raising the bar for all advertising agencies.  And it was Martell Cognac that reaped the benefits.

By the way: Martell is not the only cognac house that sponsors horse racing, Hennessy also does that.

Sources: Direct Response
Pic: © EXIF, grand-national.me.uk

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Jacki has been with Cognac Expert from virtually the beginning. She's the senior editor of the blog, and has spent much of her life living in rural France. Today she's based back in the UK, where she splits her working life between writing for Cognac Expert and working as a Paramedic at a large regional hospital.

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