For the first time in almost twenty years, the Government froze duty increases on alcohol. This didn’t happen in a vacuum. iNHouse Communications crafted an impressive, multi-layered campaign to build a support base and hone and deliver persuasive messaging. The mainstay tactics of direct political engagement and earned media played a prominent role, but this is a clear example of a hardworking, integrated approach delivering demonstrable results.

Mark of Excellence:

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    Let Us Do More

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Winner entry:

Brief, objectives and budget:

The UK Spirits industry has been a success story of the last decade. Our national drinks – Scotch and gin – have boomed, with the number of distilleries across the country more than doubling. This has meant more jobs, more revenue for government and more choice for consumers.

Alcohol duty has been described as “one of the most dysfunctional parts of the UK tax system”, with smaller distillers particularly sensitive to any changes in the rate. With the tax burden already a staggering 72% on every bottle of spirits, our polling showed increases in excise duty could result in a £200m hit to the sector. An unsuccessful campaign would have serious, industry-wide ramifications for both employees and employers.

The iNHouse team were tasked with creating a body which voiced the concerns of a fledgling industry, with the specific aim to freeze duty and achieve a government commitment to review excise duty, which the industry campaign for unsuccessfully for over a decade. From this, In May 2019, the UK Spirits Alliance was born.

The UK Spirits Alliance sought to persuade Government and the Treasury that a policy change was essential to allow British businesses to thrive. Building on the success of other groups such as the Scotch Whisky Association, we wanted to ensure a fairer deal for geographically spread producers across the UK.

Overall budget: £100,000 fee & £48k costs to:

  • Maintain a freeze on spirits duty
  • Achieve a government commitment to review duty
  • Promote the idea and economics behind this iconic British success story to decision makers.

Success – a commitment by the Prime Minister on his election campaign to review duty, later confirmed in the Queen’s speech.

The idea, research and planning:

Intelligence from policy-makers in Government and Opposition helped shape our strategy.

We also conducted polling of distillers across the country with Survation, which showed optimism on growth, jobs and exports. However, it also flagged the chilling effect that raising spirits duty would have. A third of respondents warned that they may be forced to delay or cancel plans to increase production or staff members if duty went up.

We also commissioned BiGGAR Economics to carry out research on the whole UK spirits sector. Their work showed the industry was growing, and that past duty freezes resulted in additional revenues for the Exchequer. This research enabled us to get a holistic and honed view of the industry ahead of our representations to the Treasury.

Strategy, creativity and innovation:

To build our supporters’ network, we directly sought the support of individual distilleries across the UK. We used our polling and economic modelling to create a nuanced campaign message; a duty freeze would be beneficial for growing British businesses and for HM Treasury receipts – a genuine win-win. This helped us appeal to Government and stakeholders as well as prospective supporters.

In order to maximise stakeholder engagement, we helped our supporters arrange for their MP to visit their distillery. Through this we empowered small businesses to directly express the transformative impact that a freeze and review of duty would have.

Moreover, we organised an event at Conservative Party Conference at which Liz Truss MP, Secretary of State for International Trade, spoke, as well as attaining national news coverage with an open letter from UK distillers to the Chancellor.

Delivery/implementation of tactics:

Distillery visits and social media: We arranged for key MPs to visit their local distilleries including Exchequer Secretary Simon Clarke MP, Small Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst MP, Economic Secretary John Glen MP and Trudy Harrison MP, the PPS to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. We particularly targeted those MPs with a responsibility towards the business sector. These visits showed the MPs first-hand how a freeze in spirits duty is vital, meaning small distilleries can thrive, not just survive.

Media coverage: We used national, regional & local press outlets to convey our message. We also organised an event in the House of Commons, highlighting to political journalists how governmental decisions on duty impact small UK businesses. This was attended by five political/deputy political editors of national newspapers. Our open letter from UKSA supporters to the Chancellor featured in the Sun and the Daily Mail. Our launch survey with Survation was exclusively published in The Daily Telegraph’s business blog, and covered extensively in trade press.

Conference event: We were able to deploy our campaign narrative in a number of innovative ways. Our standing room only, ‘In conversation with Liz Truss MP’ event, in partnership with The Times newspaper at Conservative Party Conference, saw the International Trade Secretary back our call for a review of duty.

1922 Committee Gin: Alongside direct campaign engagement and support, we worked with the influential backbench 1922 Committee to design and create a tailored gin for the Chair, Graham Brady MP to present to the Prime Minister as a way of marking his election victory.

First parliamentary Gin Club: In February 2020, we will see the first ever Parliamentary Gin Club take place – a monthly gathering of MPs with distilleries in their constituency, hosted by Cheryl Gillian MP, Vice Chair of the 1922 Committee.

Measurement, evaluation and impact:

Campaign KPIs – alongside delivering the three ‘asks’ (see overall budget):

  • Build a supporter base of 50 independent distillers
    • iNHouse secured a 152-strong supporter base who are now members.
  • Create a brand and infrastructure that represents large and small spirits producers
    • iNHouse created a visual brand, website, social media account and press packs for small distillers, with regular newsletters and video content.
  • Reach over 1m people through media activations
    • iNHouse reached over 2m people with our earned media content.
  • Host one MP visit a week at a distillery in their constituency during the election campaign, with accompanying vox-pop & press release
    • iNHouse hosted 10 MPs visits across the six-week campaign with all accompanying content materials.
  • Secure manifesto commitments in election campaign from all major parties for a duty review
    • Secured.
  • Secure a government commitment to review duty with a timeline for conclusion in the Queens Speech
    • Secured.