After its smoky flavour notes, Ardbeg whisky is perhaps best known for its cult following. Its fans, who are invited to join ‘The Committee’, comprise a group dedicated to ensuring that the doors of the distillery on the remote Scottish Isle of Islay never close again.
Ardbeg wanted to grow that cult beyond whisky aficionados by connecting with other groups that are just as insanely committed to what they do as Ardbeg is to making its smoky, peaty whisky.
And to do it, Ardbeg was ready to try something it had never done before – commission a content series.
The result was ‘The Smoke Sessions’, a high-energy BBQ- and whisky-inspired series that TCO stirred up by mixing fire, food, cocktails, rock‘n’roll and a dash of kung fu.
The series was presented by DJ BBQ (Christian Stevenson), a longtime TCO collaborator, resident BBQ expert for Jamie Oliver’s FoodTube and a UK summer festival favourite. In each episode, DJ BBQ would take on a food challenge to delve into a different element of how to use smoke as an ingredient. The audience would learn more than just a recipe – they would have a deeper understanding of how they can step up their BBQ and cocktail game.
Each episode centred on a ‘law’ of BBQ-ing such as heat, wood and controlling smoke – all elements of whisky-making, as well. Ardbeg is committed to delivering “drinks bigger than your glass” without taking itself too seriously. DJ BBQ’s energy in each episode embodied the brand’s personality while also helping Ardbeg speak to a wider audience of food and music lovers.
In addition to the first three full episodes, TCO stoked the fire by creating 25 additional Smoke Sessions social and bonus material video assets.
The series immediately found a following and made waves. The Smoke Sessions launched in July and was heralded as one of the “Top 10 spirits marketing moves” of the summer by international trade magazine The Spirits Business. The series was covered by 25 media outlets including GQ, The Scotsman, Joe.co.uk and City A.M., with DJ BBQ helping Ardbeg share BBQ wisdom just when the world shut down amidst ongoing COVID-19 lockdown measures. In comments, viewers thanked Ardbeg for the inspiration and fun.
The Smoke Sessions was a 100% organic campaign, underlining its authentic appeal. The project’s following continues to spread through social media. The videos are being organically shared far and wide by fans (including on the mainland Chinese video sharing network Bilibili).
The content has clearly resonated in an authentic way that captures the brand’s personality.
Key Results (all organic):
25K+ views on YouTube (and counting)
186K reach for Facebook posts (so far)
16K Comments and Reactions on Facebook and Instagram
11.1K saw Instagram Live series launch cook-along