The average person probably doesn’t devote a lot of thought to marketing. They’re aware of it, especially when it leads them to something they need or want, but the stories of the professionals making it all happen tend to stay out of sight, behind the scenes.
Well, we’re about to change that.
The fact is, businesses both big and small rely on strong, effective marketing to bring in new customers and keep their existing customers in the loop. But strong, effective marketing isn’t easy to pull off. It takes dedication on the part of marketing pros and coordination between large teams of stakeholders who all have their own ideas for how things should be done.
Alyson Clarke, originally from a small town in Ireland, has been working on massive marketing campaigns for some of the biggest brands for years now, and Artvoice had a chance to speak with her.
Just to give you a taste of some of the incredible work she’s done so far, Clarke helped launch Budweiser’s sponsorship of the English Premier League, which of course happens to be the most-watched sports league worldwide, and she’s also launched products for Bulmers (AKA Magners).
There’s more, a lot more, that Clarke has accomplished in marketing, some of which have earned industry awards, and that success has been facilitated by her enthusiasm for marketing, creative thinking, and high-level collaboration and communication skills.
But it’s time to let Clarke speak for herself, so let’s move on and learn about what it takes to create great marketing that gets results.
How did you find your way to marketing? Did it feel like a good fit for your skill set and personality?
Clarke: The marketing industry always enticed me, even from a young age. To me, it was an industry that was creative, energizing, fun, and sometimes glamorous. I didn’t realize all the hard work that went along with it! I believe that if you’re truly passionate about a brand that you work on, your work will never be a chore. At the start of my career, I made a promise to myself that I would only work for brands that I truly believed in, and that’s what I’ve done throughout my career and why I love what I do so much!
What was the first major campaign/product launch you worked on?
Clarke: I’ve worked on many major campaigns but I think I was most excited about working on the product launch of Bulmers Rosé cider. Bulmers is a household name in Ireland and the number-one cider in the country, known in the US as Magners. I’ve visited New York many times and I always love visiting new bars and discovering the latest drink trends in the US, as they finally make their way to Ireland.
On one of my visits, I tried Rosé cider and I just loved it. Maybe it was the beautiful branding, the color, or the crisp refreshment. Either way, I was sold. I was so excited when we finally launched Bulmers Rosé cider, and I used my experience from the US to perfect the packaging and bring the brand to life, both in stores and in bars across the country.
The launch was a huge success: the demand for the product was above and beyond our expectations. The business was astonished but I always knew the potential the product had. It’s certainly an experience I’ll always remember.
Do you find it easy to switch between brand identities when working with different companies?
Clarke: When starting a new role or working with a new brand, I do a complete deep dive into the brand, and to me, finding the true brand personality is really important. Once I’ve identified the brand’s personality, I find it really easy to switch from one brand to another. In my previous role, I worked with several high-profile brands, so I was used to switching from one to another all the time. It keeps things exciting!
You’ve clearly worked with many different major brands. What excites you the most about working with these companies?
Clarke: As I mentioned before, I only work with brands that I truly believe in. As a result, I feel so passionate about each and every brand that I work with. I go above and beyond to ensure the campaign I’m working on or a new product launch is a roaring success. Knowing that the incredible brands I’m working with are recognizable to many across the globe makes me so grateful and it genuinely excites me every day to be a part of the brand’s success.
Can you tell us about your work on the Budweiser Premier League sponsorship?
Clarke: Yes, this was incredible. As a major sports fan, I was incredibly excited about our involvement in the most-watched sports league in the world, the English Premier League. Budweiser was announced as the main beer sponsor back in 2019, and it was the perfect sponsorship to really connect with our market.
The English Premier League is huge in Ireland, and we knew it was something that would really resonate with our consumers. Over the course of the pandemic, we couldn’t get Irish football fans to the UK to watch the Premier League games live in stadiums, so instead, we brought the Premier League to Ireland!
I created amazing theatre pieces and in-store experiences for shoppers picking up their Budweiser to watch the games at home and also hosted Budweiser-themed watch parties in bars across Ireland. We had merch, giveaways, and really cool point-of-sale in all outlets to really highlight our sponsorship, it was amazing.
You’ve already touched on your work with Bulmers, but can you tell us more about that campaign?
Clarke: My time working on the Bulmers brand was thoroughly enjoyable. As a result of being the number one cider in Ireland, there was always an abundance of activity going on. I would consider myself a really sociable person, so I always loved when we had an event.
Over the years, we sponsored some amazing music festivals, such as Forbidden Fruit and Body & Soul, as well as horse racing festivals in the UK & Ireland, such as Cheltenham and Leopardstown. I always thrive in these environments. I love the pressure, the excitement, and the thrill of it all. I would quite happily plan any event from start to finish by myself. Well, maybe don’t quote me on that, haha!
I just love all the details and will ensure absolutely everything is covered. My co-workers probably think I`m obsessed with the finer details, but I always think you have to be covered when something unexpected comes along!
Although there was tons of hard work at these events, we did enjoy ourselves from time to time when we got an opportunity to toast our success as a team. I always encourage others to take a step back, take a breath, and realize what a great job we did on something. I think this is so important. Otherwise, we just move on to the next project without appreciating each other and embracing the results of our hard work.
Before we let you go, can you tell us which of your campaigns has been the most challenging? And more importantly, how did you overcome these challenges?
Clarke: I guess it was my first-ever major campaign. It was when I was working with Athlone Towncentre Shopping Centre, the largest shopping mall in the heart of Ireland. I had an idea of how we could seriously drive foot traffic in the mall on one of our quietest shopping evenings in the middle of winter.
My idea was to hold a “Student Takeover” of the mall. A student takeover is a one-off event on one evening, where students get access to incredible discounts in their favorite stores and get entertained by DJs, among many other pieces of experiential marketing in the mall. This was a full 360 campaign, supported by radio, press, OOH, and digital.
The first challenge I had was convincing the Commercial Director to give the go-ahead for this event. This took weeks of negotiating and convincing, but eventually he agreed! My next challenge was the tiny, and I mean tiny, budget that I had to work with. This was probably my biggest challenge as the idea that I had in my mind for this event could not come to fruition with my budget.
In order to put on the best event possible, I reached out to those in my network and even close friends who could help out. Rather than paying a recognized DJ, I asked a friend who worked as a DJ locally. I reached out to start-up companies to ask if they would be interested in taking part and getting some exposure for their brands. Essentially, I had to think outside the box.
Of course, there were smaller challenges on the night itself, too, but as a result of working so hard to get the green light for this event, I was determined that it would be a huge success, and it was! It went beyond my expectations. The stores couldn’t believe it. Their sales rocketed and smashed their targets multiple times. Sales-wise, it was one of the strongest shopping days of the year. Even now, close to ten years later, the event still takes place annually. It’s definitely one campaign that I’m most proud of.