The Brief: Henri Wintermans, the world's second-largest cigar manufacturer, wanted to be positioned at the forefront of the cigar industry and turned to London-based agency AOK Events to create an event for key players in the tobacco industry and trade press.
"We wanted to gather them together to outline our strategic intent to manage and lead the UK cigar industry," explains Henri Wintermans Cigars UK head of commercial marketing James Higgs.
The event also included the launch of product Cafe Creme Express and marked the first time the cigar maker had worked with AOK. "Henri Wintermans wanted the experience to emphasise the brand's style and sophistication. From the invite through to the departure and then the actual trip, it needed to be on-brand with Cafe Creme Express, giving delegates a VIP feel," says AOK Events hospitality director Ben Eustace.
Paris was chosen due to the French link to the product and because the destination was deemed to be both sophisticated and chic enough for the client and its brand.
Challenges: The first challenge came in getting the pan-European crowd of tobacco trade delegates to the French capital, with delegates arriving from Edinburgh to Eindhoven. Next came the issue of opening the doors to a unique venue that would match the event's opulent theme. "We needed an exclusive venue that wasn't open to all groups and would really impress the delegates," says Eustace.
A further challenge was getting delegates across the city on the final day. With France playing Wales on the same day, ensuring the group made it back to the Gare du Nord for the return journey required extra planning.
Solution: For the transport and transfer solutions, AOK conducted a dry run of the event, with both the client and its public relations representatives at Publicasity, to make any final adjustments to the itinerary. When it came to finding the ideal venue to position Cafe Creme as an exclusive brand, AOK hired the Moet et Chandon cellars in Epernay. Execution Each delegate was sent a Cafe Creme box that had an invite inside and directed them to a bespoke website. Registration was handled through the site, which was ideal for data capture.
AOK Events hired the St Pancras Grand Champagne Bar at the Eurostar terminal in London for a private welcome, before delegates boarded the train to travel business class to Paris. The UK contingent of around 50 delegates enjoyed a private branded welcome in an exclusive part of the Champagne Bar, before boarding the train and sitting down to a three-course lunch.
The group arrived at the opulent Intercontinental Paris Le Grand and enjoyed a short drinks reception plus private check-in, before spending an afternoon at leisure to explore the city. In the evening, a Champagne reception in the Messager Room was followed by the presentation from the team at Cafe Creme on the latest developments. Time was factored in to allow the trade press to then post stories online before the dinner.
The following morning included the highlight of the event, as the group enjoyed a tour through the 17-mile Moet Cellars. "Moet doesn't always accept clients for the tour and the private rooms - they have to be on-brand for them too," says Eustace. Lunch in the Cave Room included a Champagne aperitif and a different Champagne with each of the four courses.
Verdict: "Everything went like clockwork," Higgs enthuses. "The surroundings and the way the event was managed complemented our strategy perfectly."
As a result of the event's success, AOK is currently in discussions with Henri Wintermans to work on a series of client incentive events that will take place in September, October and November. "Our head of operations, Victoria Sloan, delivered and executed a strong operational programme, which has led to discussions with the client about these three incentive events," says Eustace.
Client: Henri Wintermans
Event: Cafe Creme Express product launch and incentive
Group size: 70
Agency: AOK Events
Date: 26-27 February 2009
Venues: Intercontinental Paris Le Grand