Campaign: Smirnoff hires 'rocketman' for relaunch - Publicity Stunt

Campaign: Relaunch of Smirnoff Vodka

Client: Diageo Great Britain

PR Team: Splendid Communications

Timescale: December 2003-May 2004

Budget: £150,000

The UK vodka market is worth a staggering £1.4bn a year - one of the fastest growing in the spirit sector. So in a highly competitive market where image and name are just as important as taste, it is vital that brands are known and trusted.

Smirnoff is perhaps one of the best known with a 35 per cent share of the market, but has faced competition in recent years from brands such as Absolut Vodka. As a result, Diageo GB-owned Smirnoff decided to rebrand.


To promote the new 'eagle' image and raise brand awareness, especially among the 18-24 age group, who consume 40 per cent of vodka in the UK.

Strategy and Plan

The PR team opted to centre the relaunch of the eagle branding around a publicity stunt. Diageo redesigned the double-headed eagle and the bottle but kept the traditional red and white colours. To give the relaunch some impetus, Splendid Communications employed a 'rocketman' to try and record the highest flight using a rocket backpack.

The organisers secured the Castle Climbing Centre in North London and a flying suit with Smirnoff eagle branding. Only Splendid-employed photographers and cameramen were allowed in the turret, allowing the PR firm to control the footage.

After the flight, the rocketman and PR staff were on hand for live interviews.

Splendid then sent out information about the March relaunch by press release with facts and figures as the newly designed bottle began appearing in shops.

Poster hoardings were also booked with pictures of the eagle in clouds ahead of the 20 April stunt.

To help generate international coverage, the PR team secured a partnership with the Shanghai Grand Hyatt, where the world's highest bar is located, to offer customers an 'elevated' drinking experience.

Measurement and Evaluation

The relaunch, and in particular the use of the rocketman stunt, achieved extensive coverage in the UK. Altogether, the campaign received coverage across nine national newspapers, ten magazines, five regional newspapers, 41 regional radio stations, one regional TV station and national TV.

Sleaze magazine wrote a double-page spread on the future of 'bar land', incorporating the new look.

It also attracted six pieces of coverage online, including BBCi, and garnered coverage in the US, Europe, Australia and Asia.


Two weeks after the rocketman stunt, Splendid commissioned an omnibus survey of 2,000 adults. The results showed that 35 per cent were aware of the event. Further media evaluation showed an OTS figure of 82 million.

The rocketman - alias Texan Scott - climbed 152ft and entered the Guinness Book of World Records. However, while the stunt gained widespread publicity, one expert feels the campaign confused customers.

Brand Strategy editor Elen Lewis says: 'As a one-off stunt it was successful in the short term because it received coverage. But as part of a rebranding strategy, there could have been some improvements.

'It didn't focus on Smirnoff's Russian heritage, which most people would associate the vodka with. It's okay for products such as Red Bull to do stunts because it's got that type of image. Smirnoff doesn't.'

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