Product PR: Book tie-in helps stir up excitement for Vox Raspberry

Flavored vodka in recent years has been a hot category in the spirits market.

Flavored vodka in recent years has been a hot category in the spirits market.

With many new flavored vodkas competing for consumer attention, Jim Beam Brands wanted to cut through the clutter when it launched its Vox Raspberry flavored vodka, the first line extension for the ultra-premium brand. It turned to JSH&A Public Relations to craft a PR strategy that would gain both consumer attention and new points of distribution - restaurants and retail liquor stores - for the new vodka.

Strategy

JSH&A sought an approach that would make Vox Raspberry stand out from the competition. Its primary targets for the campaign were women ages 25 to 35 who were college-educated and in the upper income strata. It also wanted to reach liquor distributors and retail channels.

Tactics

As planning began, JSH&A discovered that Jaclyn Foley, editor of Bartender magazine, was planning a new book of cocktail recipes. Proceeds from the book would be given to a women's cancer charity, A Time for Me, which gives terminally ill cancer victims a day of pampering.

A partnership was created with Foley, herself a former bartender, and her planned book, The Pink Drink Book. The charity was seen as one that would appeal to Vox's target audience. Vox and Vox Raspberry were mentioned throughout the book in various cocktail recipes that called for vodka.

Beam agreed to sponsor a nine-city tour for Foley and hold meet-the-author events that included Vox Raspberry tastings. Event attendees received copies of Foley's book. Vox agreed to donate $1 per Vox Raspberry cocktail served at the events to A Time for Me.

The tour visited New York, LA, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Miami, Dallas, San Francisco, and New Jersey from July through September 2003. In each area, JSH&A contacted local media. The charity tie-in drew media interest, says Laura Dihel, a VP with JSH&A. "It expanded our reach," she notes, adding that several thousand media, including book and entertainment editors for daily and weekly outlets, were contacted.

Thanks to an advertising relationship with Cond? Nast magazines, the campaign was able to purchase a list of 45,000 subscribers to such publications as Vogue and Vanity Fair, inviting them to the tasting events.

In addition, Jim Beam sales representatives identified key accounts to host tour events, raising interest among retailers.

Results

The tour garnered more than 18 million media impressions, with coverage in such outlets as the Chicago Sun-Times and The Miami Herald. Beverage trade magazines, key to getting the Vox Raspberry message to potential distributors and retailers, also covered the tour.

In addition, the tour raised $55,000 for A Time for Me.

Distribution for Vox Raspberry grew 300% because of the tour, and the brand is now the fastest-growing ultra premium raspberry vodka, says Nicole Ertas, senior brand manager super premium with Jim Beam.

PR, Ertas says, "was really our primary vehicle to drive distribution growth and build awareness." The typical upscale consumer Vox wants to attract does not [often] respond well to mass-market ads, Ertas notes. Editorial coverage in papers and magazines "gave it more legitimacy" with its audience, she adds.

Future

JSH&A continues to work with Vox Raspberry. A tour featuring high fashion is being considered to stress the brand's ultra-premium nature. "With high-end brands, it's important [to] differentiate the brand," says Dihel.

PR team: Jim Beam Brands and JSH&A Public Relations (Oakbrook Terrace, IL)

Campaign: Vox Raspberry Pink Drink Tour 2003

Time frame: March to September 2003

Budget: $85,000

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