Campaign: Kalashnikov promotes own-brand vodka

Campaign: Kalashnikov Vodka UK launch Client: Kalashnikov Joint Stock Vodka Company PR team: Talk Loud PR Timescale: February-October 2004 Budget: £50,000

General Mikhail Kalashnikov, best known for inventing the AK-47 sub-machine gun, decided to lend his name to a new brand of vodka and launch it in the UK. Talk Loud PR was recruited to handle the product launch, which took place six months after the general's company, Kalashnikov Joint Stock Vodka Company, was listed on AIM. Objectives

To raise awareness of Kalashnikov Vodka with men and women aged 25 to 40 and drive sales.

Strategy and Plan

Before officially launching the product to national media, the PR team informed the drinks trade press about the new vodka to pave the way for advance orders and create anticipation among the media. It also highlighted the upcoming launch to the national business press in a bid to create a buzz about Kalashnikov's company in the City.

Talk Loud decided that the best way to interest journalists would be to give the media access to Kalashnikov himself. It therefore flew the general into the UK for his first-ever British press junket and held a launch party at a central London location for shareholders and newspaper diary writers.

The team also invited a few carefully selected journalists from men's lifestyle magazines and Sunday newspapers to a lunch with the general and allowed each correspondent to interview him without any PROs present.

This ensured different reporters could develop different angles on the story.

A photocall featuring Kalashnikov in full military regalia raising a toast with his vodka was arranged and the picture was sold in to the national and regional press.

To create a stir about the vodka in bars, a promotional team of three Russian beauties was set up to tour pubs and clubs. Men's lifestyle magazines were then targeted with photographs of the women, nicknamed the 'Nikita Girls', in an attempt to grab the attention of the target male audience.

The team also convinced barmen from trendy venues to create cocktail recipes using Kalashnikov Vodka as an ingredient, and then sent the recipes to style and events magazines.

In all dealings with the press, Talk Loud tried to distance the vodka from its association with the AK-47 where possible, stressing that Kalashnikov, who fought in the Second World War, designed the rifle after being conscripted into Joseph Stalin's Red Army. The vodka, it argued, represented a positive change in the products made by the general - and it stressed that the Kalashnikov name continued to be associated with quality goods.

Measurement and Evaluation

National coverage of the launch was achieved in 12 newspapers, including The Sun and The Times, 15 consumer magazines and 14 drinks trade publications.

Two national radio stations, including BBC Radio 4, two business TV programmes and three international publications, as well as Reuters and CNN, also ran the story.

It was also covered by three regional radio stations and 13 regional papers.

Results

Sales of the vodka have risen by 750 per cent since the official launch.

'This campaign was refreshing because the PR team understood I would need to write something about the AK-47, even though it was pushing the vodka launch,' says Metro freelance reporter Scott Snowdon.

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