How Smirnoff Is Reimagining Sponsorships, Concert-Friendly Drinks

The way that alcohol brands sponsor events is changing.

Much of this reflects marketing for Millennials. Traditional “in-your-face” advertising turns off this generation. Rather, they prefer campaigns (and products) that are authentic and sharable. Sponsorships have changed accordingly.

This change was on display during the Smirnoff Sound Collective in Miami, which I had opportunity to attend.

Performance First

The Sound Collective is an electronic music platform created by the vodka brand in 2014. After touring overseas for years, the Sound Collective came to Miami Music Week 2016, bringing electronic tunes to the rooftops and basement clubs of South Beach.

“The Smirnoff Sound Collective’s goal in music is to authentically contribute to the electronic music culture instead of placing logos everywhere at a festival,” explains Matt Bruhn, Senior Vice President Smirnoff Global.


True to his vision, the four-day concert was light on advertising and plentiful with performances. Music was the focus ahead of other agendas. For instance, day three featured an all-female DJ lineup — a rarity in electronic or any music scene — but without significant fanfare for the gender theme.

“We’ve been really lucky that Smirnoff worked with us,” says Frankie Hutchinson, co-founder of Discwoman, who booked the lineup. “They’ve opened up the platform for us, for women, for whoever.”

The four-day concert included performances by Gary Richards (stage name Destructo), a veteran DJ and music executive. “Smirnoff is allowing us to do what we do,” he says. “And they’re turning people onto the newer stuff. This is the platform to do this.”

“I see more brands figuring out how to do cool things,” Richards adds. “I think these can be some really good relationships for everyone.”

Smirnoff Ice Electric Berry.

Smirnoff Ice Electric

The vodka brand did take the opportunity as sponsor to showcase its newest product: Smirnoff Ice Electric.

This is a branded extension of the flavored malt beverage line, Smirnoff Ice. Beyond that, though, these drinks look very little like anything else on the market.

Picture bright liquids in a clear, plastic, re-sealable bottle. At first you might mistake them for PowerAde. I did. Hence the phrase “21+up” is printed all over the labels, including atop the bottle cap.

Target consumers are concert-goers — like those who flocked to Miami Music Week. “Smirnoff ICE Electric Flavors were created to be a beverage that would allow these consumers to keep it moving on the dance floor without worrying about spilling a drop,” Bruhn explains.

The mobile aspect should generate appeal. Although Millennials are picky when sitting down to a drink, on the move they prefer whatever is convenient. Smirnoff Ice Electric fits this grab-and-go mold, making for easy consumption while moving about a club or music festival.

And the plastic bottles are recyclable. This is welcome news for anyone who has ever had to clean up after such a large event.

Smirnoff Ice Electric comes in four-packs of 16-oz. bottles, in either Berry or Mandarin flavors, for a suggested retail price of $8.99. They are light and smooth in flavor, and 5% ABV. National rollout kicked off in May.

New Take On Flavors

Everyone is ready to bury flavored vodka, for good reason. The category overextended in recent years. Odd flavors like bacon and bubblegum failed to gain traction. This forced pullback and product reimagining.

Smirnoff has a new take. During the Sound Collective, bartenders whipped together cocktails with Smirnoff Sourced, a newly launched line of vodkas made with real fruit juice. Available flavors are Ruby Red Grapefruit, Cranberry Apple and Pineapple.

They are gluten-free, and do not contain high-fructose corn syrup. Perhaps the “all natural” craze will play better in the vodka category than the fast-dimming flavor trend.

Smirnoff Sourced obviously lends itself to cocktails. And as these vodkas contain fruit juice, they must be refrigerated after opened. They retail for about $15 per 750-ml. bottle.

It’s an interesting experiment from a brand that remains willing to rethink what consumers want out of products and sponsorships.

Kyle Swartz is the associate editor of Beverage Dynamics Magazine. Reach him at and follow him on Twitter at @kswartzz.



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