Beckham is entertaining guests inside the Wellington Arch

Beckham is entertaining guests inside the Wellington Arch

On Sunday night, ex-footballer and modern-day whisky impresario David Beckham held a party in central London.

Or so I've been told. 

The event - the start of a week-long VIP pop-up at Wellington Arch for Beckham and Diageo's Haig Club Scotch whisky - was so exclusive that not even just-drinks was invited.

But then exclusivity is the watchword behind the Haig Club residency. Guests for the week are invitation-only and, according to Diageo, just 200 will enter the three-room bar and restaurant inside the arch. I don't expect to be one of them.

A few months ago, however, I did secure admission to a luxury pop-up - and learned why they have become the go-to marketing weapon for global spirits brands.

La Maison Rémy Martin opened late last year on Greek Street in London's Soho district. For two weeks, the five-floor venue hosted celebrities including Idris Elba and Yasmin Le Bon, held work shops on crafts such as guitar making and perfumery and served up specially created Remy Martin cocktails from two fully-stocked bars.

Like the Haig Club residency, La Maison Rémy Martin was invitation-only, meaning that just a few hundred people could experience it.

But why are Diageo and Remy Martin-owner Remy Cointreau spending what must surely be a lot of money targeting a relatively small number of people?

A Remy Cointreau spokesperson, and my guide at La Maison, claims exclusivity is a major motivation. “It's mainly about being creative, and giving people a different experience," says the spokesperson, who did not want to be named. "We want to challenge people's perceptions of the brand.” 

The spokesperson also says that unlike with traditional marketing campaigns, luxury pop-ups give instant results through social media chatter. “Before we would have had to wait about six months to judge if the campaign was a success." 

Matthew Bennett, chief creative officer & founder of UK marketing agency ZAK Media Group, however, sees it differently. 

According to Bennett, the past year has seen the rise of the luxury pop-up because they are great value for money and offer complete control of the consumer experience. Rather than rely on a high-end city-centre bar, companies can create their own - and have the all-important bartenders on their payroll.

“The way spend has gone, the only pure brand experience (alcohol companies) have other than TV - which nobody is investing in any more - is the pop-up bar,” Bennett says. “It's a cost-effective way to reach out to people and to get them to talk about your brands in a positive way.”

It also gives the chance to connect with the late-20s/early 30s age bracket, a group that grew up with the pop-up experience and is now ready for a more bespoke service.

“This is an audience that is a bit more discerning, and has a bit more spending power,” Bennett says. “The time is ripe to get them converted into brand loyalists.”

Will we see more of them? Of course, says Bennett.

“It is expensive,” he admits. “But companies will make that money back in PR value alone.”

“Plus,” he adds, “it's cheaper than shipping everyone to Cognac.”

Back at La Maison, guests are dropping in to the top-floor bar for an after-work cocktail. Jimmy the barman, a veteran of the scene who seems to know everyone in the room, gives his take.

“The main thing is about getting the drink into someone's hand,” he says, while pouring a Remy Martin version of a brandy sour. 

David Beckham couldn't have put it better himself.