Jim Beam Brands launched its first US Hispanic marketing campaign almost five months ago. Is the investment paying off? Anne Brockhoff reports.

Jim Beam had already turned to brand-building as a means of driving growth and profit when it spotted an intriguing statistic: Hispanic consumers consume 10% of the American whiskey sold in the US, but account for just 5% of Jim Beam bourbon sales.

"That's a huge gap," said Tom Hernquist, senior vice president of marketing for Jim Beam Brands, a unit of Fortune Brands. "We saw that within the Jim Beam brand there was a tremendous opportunity to build loyalty among Hispanic consumers."

So the company launched a marketing campaign in June that includes print, radio and outdoor advertising, plus point-of-sale and on-premise promotions.

It's a "multi-million dollar" annual investment, including "millions" in full local- and national-market media buys, said Hernquist, who declined to provide specific figures.

The pay-off?

"It's very early, but we're starting to see a positive up-tick," Hernquist said. "The feedback we've got from consumers, our customers, has been very favorable."

The campaign targets legal drinking age to 28-year-old men and women in the six markets where 80% of the country's Hispanic population lives, Hernquist said. Programmes have been tailored to each of the markets, which include Miami, Houston and Los Angeles.

The Bravo Group, the Hispanic subsidiary of Young and Rubicam, designed the ad campaign. GMR Marketing's Hispanic unit is doing on-premise promotions such as Jim Beam Flash, which allows consumers to download photos taken of them at bars and clubs from the company's bi-lingual Web site.

Bates USA South is coordinating other elements of the promotional campaign, such as Jim Beam's sponsorship of 19 bands. The campaign, which also includes efforts to widen distribution, will soon expand into new markets to keep pace with a growing demographic, Hernquist said.

"It's something we'll be continuing in the future. It's not a short-term proposition, but a long-term investment," he said.