Working within the Spirits industry – Marketing placement student

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Sam McFarland, studying BSc Marketing at the University of Southampton. Insights Executive at William Grant and Sons UK.

When did you start your placement?

I started my placement as Insights Executive at William Grant and Sons about 6 weeks ago, at the end of September.

Tell us something exciting about your company we wouldn’t know!

We are one of the largest spirits companies in the world and we own famous brands such as Hendricks gin, Glenfiddich whisky and Monkey Shoulder.

So what have you been up to since you started?

Since starting I have had so many opportunities to see different sides of the business. I have been introduced to all of our brands and have spent a lot of time looking at competitor data and what it means, in order to help come up with marketing solutions. I’ve also been out in the field with some of our trade team who look after our accounts with different venues, as well as attending the company’s annual conference in Scotland, where I got to see how whisky is made! I had the chance to attend a creative workshop for one of our vodka brands too, where I could share my ideas with the marketing team.

What have been your biggest challenges since you started?

Although it seems obvious, one of my biggest challenges since starting at WGS UK has been adapting and getting used to working in a professional business environment. Compared to university life it’s very different! The transition however has been easier than expected, partly due to the help of the team and the relaxed company culture. The drinks industry also has a lot of terminology and abbreviations so that takes a lot of getting used to!
Besides that there has been an obvious learning curve when it comes to new software and systems but I’m never short of help.

How have you overcome these challenges?

As is often the case, I just continually ask questions and use the experience of the team I have around me for help. Personally this is the best way to learn and overcome any challenges. It also really helps build relationships within the business, which is invaluable when starting.

What have you learnt?

I have learnt an incredible amount since working at William Grant and Sons, one key thing being how to network and interact with business professionals. This was something that I hadn’t had much experience of before. I’ve also learnt so much more about marketing as a whole and in particular how it applies to the spirits industry. Like I said earlier, my role involves supporting our brand managers by analysing our competitors to gain insight into the market and ultimately help tailor our marketing efforts.

What sort of lunches do you have at your company?

The office has an excellent canteen that offers cold food such as sandwiches and salads, as well as hot meals, soups, and other snacks that change each day. There is also a bar for special events too!

What are you up to over the next few weeks?

Over the next few weeks I am travelling to London and Manchester to complete training provided by the company as part of my role. Whilst in the office I am currently working on analysing the rum market and our brands competitors. This is in preparation for a trip to Glasgow at the end of the month, where I will present my findings to our marketing team at a workshop. The hope is that this insight will help the team to make decisions on how we choose to market our rum brands.

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