Meet Antony Owich, Jameson East Africa Brand Ambassador and Rob Scannell, Irish Whiskeys Brand Ambassador. We catch up with them to get the inside scoop on Jameson Connects Kenya and learn a little more about what they do and how they do it.
How did you guys meet? What was that like?
Antony Owich: How we met?
Rob Scannell: Our eyes met across the room.
AO: I saw him and I was like “he’s the one”, love of my life!
RS: I was actually looking at a girl behind him, but he kinda caught me so I was like… This is cool.
AO: But on the real? Christmas.
AO: Christmas of last year.
RS: In Ireland.
AO: We didn’t really talk though.
RS: We were on the same team! You were just on your phone the whole time.
AO: But we never talked through the whole trip.
RS: Except that last day, when we did that walk around thing.
AO: Oh yeah! We were in the same group.
RS: You were literally just Snapchatting and Instagramming the entire time.
Why were you guys in Ireland?
RS: It’s a Jameson thing, we do a training every Christmas. It’s kind of a brand refresher course, we go through the whole business plan. Eighty ambassadors from all over the world come back to Dublin for three days of learning.
What’s the dynamic of your relationship? Particularly as two brand ambassadors for different ranges of Jameson in this market?
RS: Antony’s done quality work across Jameson with the influencer community and with the bartenders, he’s really seeded Jameson strongly across Kenya. The reasoning behind me coming in is that there’s going to be a lot of brands coming to Kenya over the course of the year. Antony will work on one or two of the new ranges and the main body work of the original, then I’ll start working on the rest.
AO: On top of that, I think [Rob] has more hands-on experience with mixology as opposed to me so I learn a lot from him in that aspect.
On that note, why launch Jameson Makers Series now? What about the Kenyan market makes it ready?
RS: There’s a bunch of things, one is that Jameson has been so well-received here. When you look at other markets when they start bringing in their ultra-premium offerings, it’s more along the scotch lines. What I found to be unique over here is that there’s a real acceptance of the taste of Irish whiskey. Jameson has kicked off because people really associate with the smooth taste and what the emerging middle class is looking for is more premium offerings and that’s where Jameson is ramping it up. Portfolio premiumisation is a big thing for Pernod Ricard globally; it’s Kenya’s time.
AO: It’s been a long time coming. We’re late, but better late than never.
What’s your personal favourite social media channel and why?
AO: Instagram and Snapchat definitely.
RS: Instagram definitely and….
AO: Tinder! He loves Tinder.
RS: I was going to say Facebook. Is Tinder a social media channel?
AO: Yeah, it counts.
RS: Fine. I’m pretty fond of Tinder. It’s a good way to meet people when you travel.
If a fan of Jameson (or yourselves) wants to keep up-to-date with what’s happening, what’s the best social media platform to follow you on?
AO: Mine is Instagram (@antony.owich)
RS: I’m learning a lot from him in terms of social media push so I’m trying to enhance what I do on Instagram. I’ve kinda fallen off Snapchat… Instagram would be the best place to see me (@rob.scannell)
How do you go about choosing the International artist for Jameson Connects Kenya?
AO: There’s a lot that goes into it. First there’s budget, there’s the relevance of the artist to this market and if the artist can resonate with the brand. For example, Tinie Tempah is a whiskey drinker and he’s an African who moved to the UK. Plus, Kenyans love Tinie Tempah’s music.
RS: Since I just moved to Kenya recently, this is going to be my first experience with Jameson Connects. Like Antony said, it has to be an artist that is respected in his field and relevant to our brand and our audience. A big part of it is that we find someone who associates with our brand so that they can come in on top of the brand experience we’re trying to create. Not only is it a gig but it’s a chance to really create a lifestyle for the brand.
Is Kenya the only country where Jameson Connects happens?
AO: It initially was but now we have Jameson Connects Nigeria, Jameson Connects Uganda, Jameson Connects South Africa and more. The concept grew from here and it’s spreading all over Africa.
RS: The beautiful thing I learned here is that the scale of the project and the attention and recognition that it gets, it’s actually Jameson’s biggest property globally. Biggest association, biggest event.
How many years ago did it start?
AO: Four years ago.
The event is a bit different this year, there’s experiences to enjoy while you’re at the Jameson Connects Kenya. What are those?
AO: When you looked at Jameson Live (what the name of the party was before this year), it was basically a concert where you come see a few artists perform through the night. This year, it’s an experience more like a festival because it starts early, at 3PM. The experiences we have are a barber shop, we have a sneaker convention where you can come see different sneakers and we’ll have numerous bars. When we talk about bars it’s not your ordinary bar; there’ll be different bars with different themes and serving different drinks. We’ll also have a gaming station where we’ll have foosball and Jamie pong.
Which experience are you each looking forward to most?
AO: I’m growing my hair in November so in December I’m going to shave my head.
RS: You’re going to shave your head? You promised the guys in Ireland you’d have an afro when you came back.
AO: I’m going bald! So I’m excited for the barber shop, to get a fresh cut.
RS: I’m between two things because I’ve seen images of what the barbers can do, so I’m very tempted to get ‘Jameson Connects’ shaved into my head. Secondly, the drinks experience is exciting for me because from my background I’ve been able to use a lot of the learnings to bring a new interesting drink experience here. That’s why we have multiple bars because not everyone will like the same thing and we want to cater to everyone’s palates. It should be really exciting.
What’s the best Jameson event/party that each of you has ever attended?
AO: For me it was an event called The Big Grill in Ireland that Jameson was the main sponsor of. I thought it was amazing. The music was spot on, it had a barber shop and it was the first time I got to try Jameson Caskmates. The venue was playing reggae as well. Imagine, reggae in Europe! I was so happy.
RS: My favourite was probably the first St. Patrick’s Day party I did in Bangalore. It was a huge, huge event. We managed to get 2500 people into a big outdoor area and it was all good local artists. I was sleeping in the agency office, waking up at 7AM, running all over town, attending pre parties in the night, then going back to the agency office to keep working on the rest of the stuff. I’d fall asleep at the agency office at around 4AM then get back up and keep going. Seeing the final project come to life blew my mind. It was my first year on Jameson so seeing it come together was unreal. We actually won an award for it last year.
An award through whom?
RS: Jameson! Jameson have an annual award ceremony for all ambassador initiatives. We won Best International Market Activation.
AO: It’s called the Jamies.
Do you have to attend a lot of work related events on weekends? What’s that like?
AO: Pretty much. Even if we don’t have a Jameson activation we have another brand’s activation where we want to see what’s happening. Most of the time we’re busy on weekends.
It sounds like your work and private life are pretty intertwined, how do you separate the two if at all?
RS: As you stay in this industry you start to learn that everyone you’re friends with is in someway related to the industry. The only way to separate the two is to make a few friends that aren’t involved in the industry. I’d find a few people to play football with who may not necessarily be out on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
AO: For me I think my private life and my work life are basically intertwined but you have to strike a balance because you need to know when to be in “work mode” and when you need to be private. Most of my friends are in the industry but there are times when we don’t need to talk about work. You need to strike a careful balance between the two.
Rob, what brings you to Nairobi? Where were you before?
RS: I was finishing up in India and it was time for my next move, to experience something else. I’ve been tracking the movements in Africa and what’s been happening with Jameson Africa because for me in this industry, this is the final frontier. This is where the next boom is going to happen. My options were South Africa or Kenya and after seeing all the great work that’s been done here, Kenya was my first option. I don’t regret it for a second. Before coming here, I was in Mumbai for a year and then Bangalore.
Antony, since you’ve been a Jameson brand ambassador in Nairobi, what would you say has been your biggest accomplishment thus far?
RS: Not getting fired.
AO: There’s that (laughs)
My biggest accomplishment has to be winning an award in the Jamies: Best Budget Busting activation. I partnered with Thrift Social because they’re lifestyle influencers, they’d been featured in a lot of places: Vogue, Okayafrica and even Swizz Beatz Instagram. I noticed they were up-and-coming as influencers in the fashion industry and I approached them for a partnership. I had to build a relationship between myself, Oliver and Velma and I found that they could connect to the brand. For me, the Thrift Social partnership has been one of my biggest accomplishments.
If you had to describe Jameson Irish Whiskey in one word what would it be?
AO: Jameson in one word…. My heart. It’s not one word but there you go.
Now describe each other.
RS: I’d say one of the main things I’ve learned seeing Antony in his natural setting is that he’s done serious work as an ambassador. He is the ambassador. He walks into a place, he knows everyone; everyone knows him and he knows everyone. That’s one of the most important things about being an ambassador. That comes from his on-the-ground influence and digital influence. I’ve been doing this for three years and from what I’ve seen in terms of digital ambassadors, he’s the strongest by far.
AO: Thanks man.
Rob is one of the most hardworking people I’ve ever worked with. Rob doesn’t need to be pushed to do something, he’ll just call you and tell you what needs to be done. Sometimes, I’m not gonna lie, I slack… Sometimes.
I remember one time we needed to do a video and he kept coming to me everyday asking me to shoot and he’d keep pushing me to do it until we got it done. He’s one of the most hardworking people I know, he’s a networker, he connects with people and he puts the brand first, before anything else. On top of that, he’s really creative so I learn a lot from him.