Smirnoff toasts fresh look with event-filled campaign

STAMFORD, CT: Diageo plans to spend several million dollars of an overall $157 million marketing budget to relaunch its popular Smirnoff vodka in the US this year.

STAMFORD, CT: Diageo plans to spend several million dollars of an overall $157 million marketing budget to relaunch its popular Smirnoff vodka in the US this year.

The beverage maker has hired Interpublic Group?s Bragman Nyman Cafarelli, New York, to handle consumer PR, an influencer campaign, event marketing, and media relations for the potable?s relaunch, which began this month.

A major internal PR program aimed at salespeople, distributors, and retailers will be handled by Diageo staffers. Parties introducing Smirnoff?s new look to those groups took place earlier this month and will continue into October, including one in New York?s Grand Central Station.

The vodka category has seen scores of new entrants in recent years, particularly in the flavored-vodka segment. Premium and super-premium vodkas have seen growing consumer interest. Smirnoff is hoping to reinforce its image in those categories, adding packaging touches that harken back to the brand?s root in the Russian imperial court.

The new campaign seeks to position Smirnoff as high quality and ?cool? among 21- to 29-year-old consumers, said Beth Davies, director of brand PR at Diageo?s US headquarters.

Smirnoff, Smirnoff Twist, Smirnoff Ice, and Smirnoff Ice Triple Black are all getting new packaging designed to convey a message of style and quality. Media kits discussing the packaging ? as well as other aspects of Smirnoff ? are being sent to lifestyle and entertainment media, Davies said.

A variety of music events will also be held around the country to help promote the relaunch. ?The Smirnoff music events will expose consumers to the product and the high quality of the brand,? Davies said. ?A lot of our work will be in connecting with consumers through music.?

Also in the campaign will be a message of responsible drinking, and music celebrities and other spokespeople for the brand will help emphasize this theme. ?We use them as the catalyst to get that message to consumers,? said Davies. ?It resonates better with the consumer if it comes through them,? she said.

The PR effort will be coordinated with a worldwide campaign for Smirnoff, Davies said. A US ad campaign titled ?Neat? starts in October.

Diageo this month reported pretax profits up 6% worldwide for the year ending in June and said it expected business to pick up in the US. Its US sales were up 5% overall in its last fiscal year.

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