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Case Study: How We Used Experiential Marketing To Raise Brand Awareness For Spirit Of York

Tanya Cruz
Written By
Tanya Cruz
Published On
Nov 06, 2019
Brand Awareness For Spirit Of York

In this day and age, it’s harder than ever to grab the consumers attention. Whether it’s the digital world or the real one, consumers are bombarded with ads everywhere they look. Because of this, it’s imperative that brands find creative and meaningful ways to connect with them, in hopes to create a positive, lasting impression, and ultimately turn them into loyal brand ambassadors.

A great way to achieve this is through experiential marketing. But what is it and why is it effective?

We’ll break down the basics below and show you how we used this marketing strategy to help raise brand awareness for our client Spirit of York.

What Is Experiential Marketing?

Experiential marketing (sometimes referred to as field marketing or event marketing) veers away from traditional marketing methods and actually allows potential consumers to experience a brand in-person and in real-time. Why is this important? Not only does it humanize your brand, but it also generates brand awareness and loyalty. Plus, the numbers don’t lie either — according to statistics, 74% of consumers say that engaging in branded event marketing experiences makes them more likely to buy the promoted products. Not only that, but 98% of consumers create digital or social content at these events, which only helps take that brand awareness to the next level. Now when you add influencers and media into the mix, you create the opportunity to expand your brand’s awareness even further by tapping into their audiences when they share their experiences on their social platforms.

Case Study: Spirit of York

Case Study: Spirit of York

The Ask

Spirit of York is one of Canada’s leading premium distillers, located in Toronto’s beloved Distillery District. They’re best known for distilling all their spirits in-house, using ingredients that are locally sourced within Ontario for a product that’s 100% Canadian. Having only been in operation since 2017, Spirit of York wanted to start promoting their distillery tours and space in a fun and authentic way, which they could later use for social media and website collateral.

We saw this as a unique opportunity to execute an experiential influencer and media event, which would not only help generate brand awareness for Spirit of York, but give us the opportunity to capture content they could use down the road. We believed the best way to achieve that was through an exclusive event for media and influencers alone, who would get a chance to go on tours, enjoy complimentary food and cocktails and most importantly, learn about the Spirit of York brand. Then, with the help of our in-house videographer and photographer, they’d capture the magical moments of the event that would later be used as collateral for the weeks and months to come.

Finding The Hook

Experiential marketing initiatives are becoming increasingly more popular, especially ones that are specifically catered to media and influencers. From product launches, premieres, and other exclusive events competing for their attention on any given day– finding the right hook is crucial when executing any experiential event because it creates a sense of exclusivity, allure and urgency for invitees, which ultimately persuade them to want to come out to your event.

In the case of Spirit of York, with plans to open their very own kitchen in early 2020, we framed their event as an exclusive kitchen launch party where media and influencers would be the first to experience some of the elevated bar bites before they hit the menu in the new year. This combined with complimentary cocktails, distillery tours and live musical entertainment — who would want to miss a party like that?!

While media and influencers may have been persuaded to attend the event on the promise of free cocktails and distillery tours alone, the kitchen launch party added a sense of timeliness and urgency to the event that made it far more exclusive. Especially when planning to invite media to an experiential marketing event, having a hook like this is a good opportunity to garner some earned media opportunities which could further compliment and drive any existing PR initiatives.

What We Did

Once we found a hook, we were able to tackle all the other fun to-dos of planning an event. They included:

Inviting The Right Influencers

While keeping the capacity of the space in mind, we invited influencers from the food and lifestyle categories in Toronto who had an average following of 10K or higher, who we believed would not only enjoy the brand, but be compelled to share about their experience with their followers.

Inviting The Right Media

Because the event had a very clear hook associated with it, it was a great opportunity to invite media as a way to help garner earned media coverage. When curating our list of invitees, first we looked at media outlets that covered Spirit of York in the past, leveraging those relationships as well as invited media in the food, drink and lifestyle category, who would also be interested in an event like this.

Creating Magical Moments

While any good party has a natural flow to it, successful experiential marketing events feature key moments or activations that occur throughout it to help keep guests entertained and most importantly, give them the opportunity to engage with the brand in a meaningful and thoughtful way. Creating these magical moments are crucial in generating positive experiences with guests that make them feel compelled to share it with their followers.

In the case with Spirit of York, these moments included organizing distillery tours throughout the space, setting up food pairing stations that showcased their food and spirits, as well as live musical entertainment from David Matisse, a member from the Juno Award-winning group Keys N Krates. These magical moments kept the night going at a steady pace with the room packed at all times, and created moments that were shareable on social.

The Results

Besides capturing content that the brand could use internally, the ultimate goal of the event was to acquaint media and influencers with the Spirit of York brand, learn about their commitment to local ingredients, and experience the distillery in all its glory.

The event generated a number of organic social posts on Instagram, as well as some earned media opportunities. And of course, we got all the collateral necessary through our videographer and photographer, which we’ll be using for weeks down the line to help promote Spirit of York.

View this post on Instagram

I found the Fountain of Youth at @spiritofyork! 🥃 Watch the Fountain Negroni… 😍 like a regular negroni, but from a fountain. ⛲ – They also have an upcoming menu which include elevated bar bites, charcuterie with local meats and cheeses, seafood and desserts. My favorites were the bacon-wrapped scallops and beef wellington. 😋 – The most unique spirit I had there was their Hawthorn Berry Gin which is like a dessert gin. Pair that with the raspberry chocolate from @somachocolatemaker and be ready to get mindblown. 🤯 – 🏙️ Spirit of York – 📍 12 Trinity Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5A3C4 – #TravellingFoodieDoesToronto #TravellingFoodie #TravellingFoodieEatsAndDrinks

A post shared by Travelling Foodie Raymond Cua (@travellinfoodie) on

Why The Timing Was Right

Besides the announcement of their new kitchen, this experiential marketing initiative is one part of a more expansive campaign Spirit of York is also running. For the past couple months, they’ve been executing a traditional marketing campaign, which includes commercials on TV and cinemas across the province, as well as billboards and posters of the brand decorating the entire city. This campaign has also been complimented by an all encompassing digital marketing campaign that our team at The Influence Agency is also executing.

While media and influencers may have encountered the Spirit of York brand through these traditional or digital ads beforehand, executing this event was a great opportunity to bring things full circle and build that personal connection with them that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. Now with the positive experience attached, media and influencers will be more inclined to become supporters of the brand. And when they encounter them again through traditional ads — Spirit of York will continue to remain top-of-mind for weeks to come.

The Takeaway

While we live in a highly digital world, the hunger for face-to-face brand-consumer interaction is bigger than ever. It’s a great way to generate word-of-mouth advertising, or in this case, for media and influencers to share their event experience with their audiences. Unlike more traditional marketing initiatives, experiential marketing is an effective way to help humanize your brand, put faces to the name and build consumer loyalty. It’s safe to say we checked all these boxes with Spirit of York, benefits which they’ll reap from for weeks and months to come. As for the event itself, here’s a video recap showing how it all went down:

Need help taking your experiential marketing event to the next level? Get in contact with us today, where we’ll guide you through the process of making yours the next must-attend event in Toronto!



  • Tanya Cruz

    Tanya Cruz is the Director of Communications at TIA. She always loved a good story, which is why she chose a career that let her tell them. These days she's telling brand stories through digital, by developing social content that resonates and helps build strong communities online. You can follow her at @thetanyacruz

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  • Tanya Cruz

    Tanya Cruz is the Director of Communications at TIA. She always loved a good story, which is why she chose a career that let her tell them. These days she's telling brand stories through digital, by developing social content that resonates and helps build strong communities online. You can follow her at @thetanyacruz

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