Inspired by the real McCoy, Bushmills Prohibition Recipe Irish Whiskey is made using the authentic no-chill-filtration method and aged bourbon casks of the early 1900s, giving consumers “a true taste of the era.” Brought to customers around the world by order of the Peaky Blinders, the anthemic limited edition collaboration would not have been possible without BEN Group, the global leader in rights clearance and merchandise licensing. Joining forces with Bushmills, BEN helped facilitate the partnership between the brand and the studio, Endemol Shine.
BEN Group has a storied history of pairing iconic talent with well known brands, culminating in some of the most memorable ad campaigns of the last fifty years. By putting authenticity and believability first, the entertainment AI company that specialises in right clearance has helped catapult brands from household name to global fame. Their latest triumph is the Bushmills collaboration, which launched in June, coinciding with the premiere of the Peaky Blinders season finale on Netflix. The co-branded product was the first launch of its kind for BEN Group and a project vice president of rights services, Sonia Bouadma, and client services director, Katy Wolf, are excited to talk to LBB about.
LBB’s April Summers dives deeper into the bourbon barrel to learn more about how prime time TV and adland came together for this innovative campaign which sees Bushmills brand persona depicted by one of the most notorious fictional families in popular culture.
At the beginning of 2021, BEN Group was approached by the Irish whiskey company, who were searching for the perfect brand persona to co-create a limited edition product with. They needed help identifying a popular entertainment property that would not only reach their target audience, but also align with their brand ethos. Understanding that IP (intellectual property) licensing and talent clearance takes time and planning, they got in touch with BEN early on. “When we started working on the brief from the client, we identified Peaky Blinders as the right partner because many of the values of the Shelby family mirror the values of Bushmills – family, grit, loyalty, and authenticity,” explains Katy. “BEN has been working with Endemol Shine (the production company with global rights to Peaky Blinders) for years, so it was a natural progression of our relationship with Endemol.”
The strong relationship between BEN Group and Endemol Shine made the clearance process easier to navigate, as Katy got the ball rolling by securing the licensing rights with the studio and the talent rights of the key character from the series, played by Cillian Murphy. “Once we negotiated the licensing terms, we worked collectively with the brand’s creative, social, PR, and digital teams to bring the promotional plan to life. This included everything from the experiential media events to launching an influencer program to drive sales of the product.”
The requirements of the co-marketing strategy meant clearing the show’s famous tagline “By order of the Shelby Company Ltd,” and family emblem. Katy and the partnerships team at BEN Group worked closely with the client and the studio throughout the creative development, to ensure the proposed packaging and design aligned with the Prohibition era, to reinforce authenticity.
Speaking about the final design, Sonia reveals; “The back of the label features a quote by Tommy Shelby, celebrating the importance of whiskey in his life, which is a nice finishing detail.” Small touches such as this make limited edition products highly sought-after and talked about. Beyond the realm of product placement, lives an opportunity for an organic, experiential form of advertising within entertainment, where fans can experience - in this case, taste - their favourite shows and movies, as they are transported viewers into their favourite fictional worlds. Incorporating entertainment properties of some of TV and film’s biggest hits in the creative appears to be a smart move for advertisers, many of whom are now delivering bonus content that enhances viewers overall experience.
For BEN Group, the idea of prime time TV and adland joining forces more often, as the nature of advertising becomes infinitely boundary-defying, is an exciting prospect. “As consumers, we are enthralled with entertainment,” muses Katy, “We create these personal attachments to shows and characters that drive a lot of our social conversations and therefore create relevancy for brands they are associated with. We’ve seen this with Stranger Things and Eggo Waffles; Transformers and Chevrolet; Wonderbread in Talladega Nights; Heineken and James Bond; and Dr. Pepper in Forrest Gump.”
“Nothing beats being able to associate your product with an entertainment property’s series at its peak time, when everyone is talking about its plot twist or its use of an iconic song for an iconic scene – think Stranger things and Kate Bush,” adds Sonia. “It creates relevancy, makes the brand part of the social chatter and buzz!”
As well as inserting themselves into the conversation, these collaborations have proven to help brands tap into new audiences. “If there is a seamless connection between the brand and the IP, and the association is authentic, then the campaign will be well received by new audiences. The perfect alignment between brand and an IP speaks volumes to consumers, and entertainment collaborations are definitely worth exploring because when the licensing starts, it can create magical results.”
BEN Group have proven time and again that they understand the parameters surrounding the endorsement and involvement of icons like the Peaky Blinders clan. Tapping into their influence as global leaders, the Bushmills campaign received over 7M views, 700,000 engagements and 8,500+ clicks to purchase. Katy expects to see an increase in cross-pollination of this kind in the future; “We are seeing a growing interest in these co-marketing campaigns across our client roster. The biggest benefits are that we get to leverage popular IP to promote sales across the various marketing channels - from in store, to online retailers, we are able to use the show imagery and likeness to create an affinity amongst audiences for the brand and product.”
Entertainment has a galvanising effect on audiences, and BEN Group’s skills in leveraging a diverse range of content opportunities – in fresh ways – is key for brands looking to forge meaningful connections with viewers.