Emma Lewis, brand manager for international brands at Nestle Waters, has a rich history to conserve and protect with S. Pellegrino.
The drink was first bottled in 1899, and almost 60 years later had risen to become the water of choice for fine-dining restaurants and the ABC1, 30 to 50-year-old demographic. And on top of that, the aqua itself has been produced for more than 600 years.
However, the weight of history is also a blessing: it is clear that Lewis and her team understand their brand and target audience well. "We know so much about our consumers and we recognise that they are loyal. They are time-poor, but we know that when they do have time they want to celebrate those special moments," Lewis says.
It's for this reason that S. Pellegrino has no plans to widen the target demographic of its experiential activity, and will stick to what it knows best - Italian heritage, luxury influences and an appeal to foodies.
VISIBLE AND CREDIBLE
S. Pellegrino has established itself as a stalwart in the fine-dining scene with the headline sponsorship of the World's 50 Best Restaurant Awards, alongside sister brand Acqua Panna, for the past 11 years. Lewis explains that the brand relishes the opportunity to activate at this event, as it provides a space in which to interact directly with its target audience.
"It gives us a platform to speak to the right people, whether that be chefs, journalists or restaurant owners - anyone in that world to whom we want to make it clear that the two brands are premium waters," she says. "We're going to be sponsoring the event again in June. It's great for visibility, and gives us real credibility."
Visibility was certainly achieved last year with the creation of a gigantic bottle of the water made from 150 regular S. Pellegrinos.
"It was positioned right in the centre of the venue, the Guildhall, and was the first thing you saw when you entered the room," enthuses Lewis. "All our products were available at the event and there were lots of other branding opportunities throughout the space."
Credibility comes through expert opinion, usually in the form of sommeliers who understand how the water's unique bubbles complement the taste of food. This was showcased through S. Pellegrino's four-year sponsorship of the Taste of London food festival in London's Regent's Park - another event where the brand's target market of chefs and foodies congregate in one place.
"Typically, we would erect a large temporary structure at the site and activated a few different experiences there, and we worked with some great chefs over the years - in 2013 it was Alexis Gauthier. We've held a wine, water and food-pairing masterclass with our UK brand ambassador, sommelier Neil Phillips, who led sessions of 40 people on a journey to discover how S. Pellegrino works with certain foods, just as wine does."
As well as this experience, the brand created a fine-dining restaurant and an Italian-inspired pop-up pizza cafe for its sister company, San Pellegrino Sparkling Fruit Beverages.
"The cafe was a lot more informal. It was great to have that there to target the drink's slightly younger market of 25 to 40-year-olds," explains Lewis.
S. Pellegrino will not be sponsoring Taste of London again this year. However, this does not signify a slowdown in experiential marketing; rather, it frees up the team to create its own branded event.
"Instead of sponsoring other events, it is time for us to stand on our on two feet and create one of our own," Lewis reveals. "It's something that we are working on at the moment with the central Italian team. Last year they held an event called 'Live from Milan' at Milan Design Week, a combination of live experiences and a pop-up restaurant, inspired by the latest S. Pellegrino communication platform, Practise the Art of Fine Food. We are now looking into how we can do something similar in London this summer."
The UK team are also gearing up for S. Pellegrino's inaugural Young Chef 2015 competition. The global search to find the best up-and-coming chef from around the world will climax at Expo Milano in June, following the UK's February final that took place in Harrods.
The venue perfectly complemented Young Chef and Vogue Italia, with whom the brand is partnering in 2015.
"S. Pellegrino is always looking to work with brands with truly Italian values that have gone on to find recognition globally. The choice of Vogue Italia this year is perfect as it hones back to two Italian specialities: food and fashion," explains Lewis.
The final 20 young chefs will each be paired with an upcoming designer from their home country, who will create a design inspired by their partner's signature dish. Vogue Italia has also created a limited-edition bottle for the water brand to celebrate the partnership. "We're very excited - it's the first year we've done this event so it's very new for everybody," says Lewis. "But part of what S. Pellegrino is about is supporting emerging talent, so it really is a natural event for us to create."
100k - Number of people who attended Live from Milan in 2014
20 countries are competing in Young Chef 2015
5 FAST FACTS
EMMA LEWIS - BRAND MANAGER, INTERNATIONAL BRANDS AT NESTLE WATERS
- Has been at Nestle Waters for three years
- Previously worked as a marketing intern for Nars Cosmetics
- Is based in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire
- Works in a team of five, alongside the local waters team and head of marketing
- Also manages Perrier, Acqua Panna, San Pellegrino Sparkling Fruit Beverages and Vittel