Heros of hospitality-Kieran Keane

17 June 2024

Kieran Keane
From bartending in a Canadian hostel to the Craft Ambassador of Jameson, Kieran Keane’s journey is a testament to passion and dedication.

Introduce yourself and your current position.Could you briefly describe your current role and responsibilities?
I am a craft ambassador based in Jameson distillery Bow Street and have been for the last seven years. A craft ambassador basically means I get all the fun jobs within the company.
Whether it’s looking after guests on our cocktail masterclasses here in Bow Street or online in our virtual classes streamed all over the world. When I’m not leading a class you can find me at the cocktail bar, chatting the ear off our guests and treating them to world class libations.

Professional Anecdote:
Can you share a memorable anecdote from your time as a Jameson brand ambassador that highlights a unique aspect of your role or a particularly impactful interaction you had?
One occasion that really stands out is a class I had with three sisters, they were quiet and a little withdrawn at first, but they came out of their shells and by the end of the afternoon we were all dancing around the bar.
Before they left, two of them thanked me for helping cheer their sister up. They’d had a bad run of illness and sad news, and it was the first time in a long time they’d seen their sister smile. It’s an honour to be a part of those memories with our guests. Not the most cheerful story but one I look back on fondly.

Kieran Keane

Career Journey:
Can you share your journey from being a bartender to becoming a brand ambassador for Jameson? What inspired this transition? 
I started off in a hostel bar in Canada in 2005 after my first degree, learning the absolute love for hospitality straight away. Working abroad at night allowed me to study for my second degree. Graduating in a recession I had to choose: leave the country for a job in my degree field or dedicate myself properly to the hospitality trade. It was 12 years going from barback to bar manager, times I absolute loved…
But as much as I loved the bar trade, the long days and late night will eventually take their toll. I needed a lifestyle change and brand-side was the goal. It’s all the fun of working hospitality without the late nights! I started working with Jameson in January 2017 and have never looked back.

Skill Transfer:
As a bartender, you developed a unique set of skills. How have these skills been beneficial in your role as a brand ambassador? 
People skills, drink skills and patience are the ultimate skills learnt while working behind the bars. You learn to work quickly and be more efficient, you become more aware of your colleagues around you. Being a craft ambassador uses all those skill sets, in a slightly different way. Guests from around the world arrive at my bar now. The small time they spend with you could have a huge impact on their vacation, how they view Jameson, even how they view Ireland. Make them feel welcome, engage with their journey.

Brand Representation:
Representing a brand like Jameson comes with its own set of responsibilities and opportunities. How do you approach the task of embodying and conveying the essence of Jameson to diverse audiences? 
It’s an honour to be part of such a globally iconic brand. Jameson is known for good times, one of the go-to drinks for celebration or just enjoying yourself on a night out, or in. We host major events to showcase the diverse style of drinks that Jameson works so well in, but we must always be aware of responsible hosting.

A big part of our brand is the safe and responsible consumption of our portfolio. This is engrained in everything I do. I'll ensure we have the best non-alcoholic cocktails on offer and water stations set-up. We enjoy the brand but never over-indulge. As amazing as my job can be from nights out, dinners and travels I must always remember I'm working, I'm there to allow others to fully and safely enjoy Jameson and everything Jameson has to offer.

Social Media:
How do you think digital engagements enhance your connection with the audience and the promotion of Jameson, and how do they complement your in-person interactions?

I feel social media is key in today's marketing world. You could run a large budget global advertising campaign to show the nature of Jameson, but a few strategic videos recorded from a phone will have bigger impact on selected target demographics. We can quickly tailor them to suit any occasion or topical events. I've been kept busy when it comes to social media campaigns, a role I absolutely love. It benefits Jameson but also my personal brand. It highlights my skills and knowledge.

The use of Zoom calls has opened a new way of running live intimate cocktail classes for guests from the comfort of their own home. It’s not every day you raise a glass with someone from the UK, Canada and Spain, all at the same time while sitting at their own kitchen table hundreds of miles from each other.

Industry Insights:

Having experienced the hospitality industry from the perspective of a bartender and now as a brand ambassador, what significant changes have you observed in the industry, particularly in how brands engage with consumers? 
The interaction between bar staff and brand ambassadors is key. Working behind bars I noticed the brands would engage almost exclusively with the bar manager. Yes, they can buy some of your stock but it's the bar staff that actually sell it. It’s the bar staff that recommend your products to a new customer. That is why I am proud to host a brand advocacy night every Monday with the Dublin brand ambassador Alex Stevens. A night we give back to the bar staff who work so hard in making Jameson what it is.

There has been a huge shift within the bar community since Covid. A new generation of bartenders have emerged, which is why I feel we should focus more on training. They are eager to learn and have a passion we should wholeheartedly encourage. Give them the skills they need to elevate our drinks to the next level.

For our consumers, running surprise events such as music acts, live podcast recordings or film screenings can again show we are giving back to our loyal customers and supporting out local community.

Kieran Keane

Advice to Bartenders:

What advice would you give to bartenders who are considering a similar career transition into brand ambassador roles? What key attributes should they develop to be successful in such a role?

Research your brand you want to get involved with. Know the image they want portrayed for their brand. You should never change your personality or stop being who you are for a job. I have a distinct look – heavily tattooed, pierced and a hairy face. Jameson embraced that and allowed me to flourish without having to change who I am. Find a brand that respects you like Jameson did me.

Know your worth! Brands get better from the skills and drive of the brand ambassadors. So always believe the brand is stronger because you are a part of it. A good brand will make you feel that!

Oh, and be prepared for early mornings. I had a hell of an adjustment period where you're suddenly starting the day at 8am instead of just getting into bed at that time.

Responsibility, responsibility, responsibility! I can't emphasise that enough. You want everyone to enjoy the brand but you need to ensure the brand is enjoyed in a responsible way. Find the magic balance of fun and responsibility while running your events and the perfect flawless nights await.

My final piece of advice for anyone about to jump brand side. Grab it with both hands, you could be about to start the greatest career you've ever had!

Please enjoy our brands responsibly. Do not share this website with anyone under legal drinking age.

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