When Powers Whiskey, the third-largest spirit brand in Ireland, wanted to rejuvenate its customer base, it turned to The Irish Times.

One of the greatest challenges for a media campaign was that the whiskey category is very competitive, and Powers Whiskey needed a fresh way to ensure it was on the radar screen for consumers.

Knowing its target audience consisted of men who like simple things in life — such as quality time with family and friends, a good pint, and sharing banter in a club — The Irish Times knew traditional advertising wasn’t going to engage them.

This market required content and stories that would draw them in.

The news media company turned to the old advertising campaigns of the 1970s and ‘80s, and found that the ads were more like short stories, capturing a moment in time and fitting in well with the Powers’ brand and its traditional, authentic Irish values.

To emulate those campaigns, The Irish Times decided to let the consumers themselves tell the story of what really matters most in life today.

The news media company launched the 2011 Powers Short Story Competition, encouraging readers to send in short (450 word) stories following the theme of “celebrating what truly matters.” The winning author would receive €10,000 in addition to having their story published.

To bring the campaign to life, The Irish Times utilised print to explain the premise of the stories, while at the same time highlighting the importance and quality of the Powers brand.

The contest attracted more than 3,342 entries — far beyond expectations — and the quantity and quality of entries led The Irish Times to publish a “Powers Short Stories” book, which was sold both online and through retail outlets.

Book sales raised €30,000 for the Irish Hospice Foundation, and because it was so successful, the contest/campaign returned for 2012.

This time around, The Irish Times added digital promotion, including sending out information in the popular “Something For the Weekend” e-mail, posting the competition on The Irish Times Facebook page and tweeting about it. A dedicated blog was used to announce the 10 finalists, post stories, and ultimately announce the winner.

For the second year, the competition drew more than 4,200 entries, thanks in part to the increased exposure from digital.