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As Upscale Vodka Race Tightens, Belvedere Launches Major Global Ad Push

December 16, 2014

With much of the dynamism in the U.S. drinks market currently centered on brown spirits, the high-end imported vodka market has been finding progress tougher to achieve. Amid intense competition, key brands like Grey Goose, Cîroc and now Belvedere are ramping up their above-the-line activities to try and gain an edge.

Moët Hennessy-owned Belvedere announced today that it has partnered with Sony Pictures’ James Bond film franchise to launch the brand’s latest global campaign platform. Titled “Bond 24,” the new initiative will run concurrent to the filming and release of the 24th James Bond film, “Spectre,” which is set to hit theaters November 6, 2015. According to Belvedere president Charles Gibb, the Bond 24 campaign will mark the Polish vodka brand’s largest international ad spend to date.

The partnership will include two limited-edition bottles, including a 1.75-liter “MI6” edition, paying homage to Bond’s MI6 headquarters in London, which is limited to 100 bottles. In late 2015, Belvedere will follow with a James Bond-inspired edition of its metallic Silver Saber bottle, targeted toward the nightlife channel and priced in the $300-$500 a 1.75-liter range. Additional Bond 24 activations and product launches are set to follow throughout the coming year.

The Bond 24 campaign kickoff comes as Belvedere ($35 a 750-ml.) seeks to stand apart in an increasingly competitive landscape for upscale vodka. Last year, the brand was up 3.2% to 460,000 cases, according to Impact Databank, compared with an overall imported vodka category up 1.5%. Over the 52 weeks to November 30, however, Belvedere posted a relatively flat performance in IRI channels, slipping 0.3%.

Grey Goose ($30), which over the past year has continued to be backed by its multi-million dollar “Fly Beyond” campaign, was up 2% in IRI’s data over the same time period, after slipping nearly 5% to 3.3 million cases in the total U.S. market in 2013, according to Impact Databank. Meanwhile, Cîroc ($35) unveiled a high-profile push of its own in recent days, titled “Step Into the Circle.” Cîroc, which debuted a new pineapple flavor in September, rose 8% to 1.9 million cases overall in 2013, and in the year through November 30 was up 10% in IRI channels. Diageo portfoliomate Ketel One increased 4% over the same timeframe in IRI data, after growing 1.5% to 2.1 million cases overall last year.

Gibb says Belvedere has had success with its Unfiltered rye expression, and intends to keep what he calls a relatively tight flavor portfolio. “The aim is not to proliferate endlessly,” he says. “We don’t want to end up with 15 or 16 different flavors, because the core business would become diminished as a result. It’s really important to keep the balance right.” Belvedere currently has a five-flavor range—including Citrus, Pink Grapefruit, Bloody Mary, Lemon Tea and Mango Passion expressions—and will add a new flavor entry in the first quarter of 2015, Gibb says.

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