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From the 7th Annual Shorty Awards

Kentucky Derby Takeover

Entered in Multi-Platform Campaign

About this entry

The 2014 Maker's Mark "Kentucky Derby Takeover" was a fully integrated, 360 campaign which included executions of social media, public relations, paid media and event activation. The goal of this campaign was to steal a large portion of the share of voice around Derby at a significantly lower investment than a paid sponsorship. We made the most exciting two minutes in sports last two weeks! These program tactics were executed:

  • Facebook (paid and unpaid Derby-specific content)
  • Twitter (paid and unpaid Derby-specific content – placed a promoted Tweet at an extremely reduced rate)
  • Pinterest (Derby party/recipe boards, including platform-specific how-to content)
  • Instagram (Derby-themed and real-time event photos)
  • Social media contests (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram)
  • Reddit (sponsored headline, crowd-sourcing banner ads for homepage takeover, real-time response on comments)
  • Website (refreshed multiple landing-page category-title images to reflect the Derby focus)
  • Paid search (Mint Julep/Derby Recipes and Bourbon/Whisky terms)
  • Public relations (Mint Julep "how to" cocktail video and recipe cards promotion, Derby fashion/lifestyle tips, worked with New York field team for Derby events)
  • Paid media (video seeding of the Mint Julep "how to" cocktail video and recipe card)
  • Event activation

  • Why does this entry deserve to win?

    Increasing awareness among our target audience by aligning Maker's Mark with the Kentucky Derby was an overarching brand goal. The strategic approach for the Maker's Mark "Kentucky Derby Takeover" was to reserve the moment – before our audience had thought much about Derby, we gave them a reason to drink Maker's Mark in their Mint Julep and delivered that message to them in advance. Our campaign was talked about more than the official bourbon of the Derby.

    A major way in which we achieved awareness was by driving the Maker's Mark Mint Julep recipe. Based on search trends, we knew there would be a huge spike in last-minute Mint Julep searches; therefore, we served Julep content for over a week leading up to the Kentucky Derby to capitalize on this interest.

    We also decided to take a risk on a site that hits our target demographic – but is also full of passionate users – and turn that passion toward bourbon by winning their hearts and minds. We took a typical digital banner ad opportunity on the social site and built upon it in a unique way to directly engage Redditors to crowd-source names for fake Derby horses. Whisky Business; No Woman, No Rye; and Beast of Bourbon were just a few of the hundreds of creative names submitted by Redditors as they got into the Derby spirit and Maker's Mark spirits. To further thank and reward their imagination and passion, the campaign culminated with Reddit's first real-time homepage takeover. Instead of static ads, we incorporated some of the best fake Derby horse names into a Maker's Mark Reddit Derby. We updated the ads and threads to play out the race throughout the day, until we crowned the winner, Distill My Heart.

    By setting up actual user accounts for the social media team, we were able to utilize cost-free threads to create a conversation about our ads before even launching them. Furthermore, the community rewarded Maker's for speaking directly to them in a transparent way. Reddit user "rachelatmakers" commented on submissions and interacted in real time (other Redditors even gave her gold, which is the site's social currency).

    In the week leading up to our homepage takeover, our sponsored headline not only drove further engagement on our fake Derby horse thread, but also grabbed the attention of media, including a full feature on Digiday. The article, "Whiskey business: Maker's Mark gambles on a Derby-themed Reddit campaign," went on to say that "Maker's Mark, the first alcohol company to advertise on Reddit, is the rare brand that has figured out how to approach the community site in an effective way." We'll drink to that!

    -The 360 program produced outstanding results in just one week: 138mm social impressions; 212mm PR impressions; 570,000 recipe content engagements; and 3,000 new fans/followers on our social media platforms (FB, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram).

    –Reddit Fake Derby Horse promotion delivered nearly 84mm impressions (two times the 46.7mm booked impressions).

    –84,000 total clicks with sponsored headline CTR of 0.14% (v. 0.11% benchmark) and sponsored headline CTR of 0.03% (v. 0.01% benchmark).

    –1,000+ comments on the discussion thread, more than 10 times what Reddit ads typically receive and 11 times the benchmark expectations.

    –40mm impressions from promoted Twitter trend #MakersMintJulep with engagement rates three times the Twitter benchmark and a five-time lift in follows and @MakersMark mentions.

    –Almost 2mm impressions of the Mint Julep cocktail video on Facebook, with one in six clicking through.

    –Additional 563k video views via paid video seeding with completion rates well above average.

    –Julep Recipe Card seeding also exceeded expectations with mobile engagement 200% above average.

    –Julep Cup sweeps on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram prompted over 900 entries.

    –Reddit Fake Derby Horse promotion delivered nearly 84mm impressions and 11 times more comments on the discussion thread than benchmark expectations.

    –Facebook non-Julep general Derby posts performed very well and reached nearly 500k people.


    Video for Kentucky Derby Takeover

    Entrant Company / Organization Name

    Maker's Mark


    Entry Credits