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[Herald Interview] Pernod Ricard’s fight for millennials’ hearts comes with whisky and art

Marketing director Florent Leroi says Royal Salute-inspired art offers new way for young people to enjoy whisky brand

Marketing director Florent Leroi holding the Royal Salute 21YO Malt. (PRK)
Marketing director Florent Leroi holding the Royal Salute 21YO Malt. (PRK)
In an online auction early this month, Scotch whisky brand Royal Salute sold artworks inspired by the brand with the help of Seoul Auction. Bidders scrambled until the last minute to get hold of the items that ended up selling at prices higher than the company had expected.

“It was really impressive to see these brand-inspired artworks sold out at such high prices,” said Florent Leroi, marketing director at the South Korean unit of global liquor company Pernod Ricard, during an interview with The Korea Herald.

The auction was the latest in a series of events dubbed the Royal Salute Contemporary Art Digital Festival, featuring a total of 10 pieces of Royal Salute-inspired contemporary works of art from five local artists including Kim Sun-woo, Qwaya, 275c, Adrian Seo and Seong Nak-jin.

Leroi said the festival was a “meaningful project” to demonstrate Royal Salute’s evolution in its artistic approaches.

“Royal Salute has presented truly artistic experiences not only by luxury liquid itself but also through brand experiences in collaboration with contemporary art,” he said.

It was the first time that Royal Salute was working with local artists to resonate with the young generation and millennial art collectors who are an important target for prestige whisky. In 2019, the firm also held the Royal Salute Contemporary Art Exhibition with Kristjana S. Williams, a contemporary artist who created a new brand concept and packaging inspired by the British Royal Menagerie in a nod to the brand’s royal heritage.

An auction preview is held in March as part of the Royal Salute Contemporary Art Digital Festival. (PRK)
An auction preview is held in March as part of the Royal Salute Contemporary Art Digital Festival. (PRK)
An auction preview is held in March as part of the Royal Salute Contemporary Art Digital Festival. (PRK)
An auction preview is held in March as part of the Royal Salute Contemporary Art Digital Festival. (PRK)
For the latest project with local artists, the company released a teaser in December and opened pop-up art exhibitions in February and March that mixed art and whisky, before holding an auction preview last month – all in an effort to reach out to young people and millennial art collectors here.

“There has been a rise in young generations in their 20s and 30s seeking to enrich their lives with art and build collection at an early age,” the company added.

The most unique part of this art festival, held under the theme “The King of Whisky,” was that consumers could enjoy finding Royal Salute stories featured in the contemporary art, said Leroi.

“The festival offered a whole new way of exploring Royal Salute brand for consumers through showcasing real artworks inspired by the entire Royal Salute product lineups.

“For millennials and Gen Z who pursue luxurious lifestyle and who are open to new experience, the festival set a new path for them to discover and appreciate Royal Salute.”

To drum up more excitement, this year’s festival adopted a new way of unveiling the exhibitions – introducing the 10 art pieces one by one through digital platforms such as Seoul Auction’s website and Instagram every week over the period of three months.

“This way of digital exhibition embraced not only luxury whisky consumers, art fans, but also digital-savvy young generation to get to know about Royal Salute and art,” the marketing director said.

The event came as Royal Salute unveiled several new blends, such as the 29-year-old Pedro Ximenez Edition, the 38-year-old Stone of Destiny or the 52 Year Old Single Cask Finish Edition, The Times Series.

“Through this festival, we presented an exceptional opportunity to showcase the entire lineups from 21-year-old products to high-end and pinnacle lineups, and fully demonstrated that Royal Salute is not just a whisky brand but a luxury lifestyle brand,” he said.

Proceeds from the online auction will go toward supporting young and emerging artists in Korea and to create opportunities and exposure for their works to a broader range of art collectors, the firm said.

“The collaboration among the global luxury whisky brand, the biggest auction house in Korea and the five Korean artists has served to push the boundaries of Korean contemporary art scene,” Leroi said.

“Pernod Ricard Korea and Royal Salute will continue to meet our consumers who love whisky and art, and to make positive contribution not just to the luxury whisky industry but also to the art community.”

By Yim Hyun-su (hyunsu@heraldcorp.com)
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