Finding the Absolut fit

For the Absolut Company, sponsorships are a waste of time and money. That's why we don't do them. Instead, we're involved in what we call 'partnerships.' In our opinion, there is a distinct difference.

For the Absolut Company, sponsorships are a waste of time and money. That’s why we don’t do them. Instead, we’re involved in what we call ‘partnerships.’ In our opinion, there is a distinct difference.

Partnerships vs. sponsorships

A sponsorship, by definition, requires the sponsor to finance a project or an event carried out by another person or group. In most cases, the sponsor plays a passive role by handing over money in return for recognition during an event or a particular project.

By contrast, a successful partnership for Absolut means playing an integral role within the partner’s activities while developing a distinct yet integrated event for the project we support. These partnerships are an important component of our overall marketing strategy and are used to reinforce our core brand values while connecting with our target audience where they live, work or play.

Absolut and the arts

One of these core brand values is our continued commitment and support of the arts. This commitment dates back to 1985 with the unveiling of Absolut Warhol – the legendary artist’s colourful depiction of the well-known bottle. Warhol helped to launch a new form of Absolut Vodka expression: Absolut Art.

Since then, Absolut has worked not only with painters, but artists in all fields, including sculptors, crystal glass designers, photographers, furniture designers, architects, jewelry designers and now digital artists. To date, Absolut’s collection of contemporary art includes the work of more than 400 artists. Many have been showcased in Absolut’s mass advertising campaigns, where the bottle is always the hero.

While some of our art initiatives are global in scope, such as Absolut Versace – a unique photo shoot featuring supermodels and incorporating giant ice sculptures of the Absolut bottle – others are done at the local level where we promote upcoming artistic talent in various communities around the world.

In Montreal, for example, we recently teamed up with the Saidye Bronfman Centre for the Arts. Our first project will be to support their F2F new media art exhibition, which will arrive from Finland and kick off next month. A key element of this cutting-edge presentation is audience interactivity and the opportunity to get face-to-face with the artists. We are still working out the details, but as always, our challenge will be to find a way to bring the partnership to life through an Absolut event that links back to the exhibit in a way that touches our target audience.

Arts as a key driver

Our involvement with the arts drives our overall partnership strategy. In fact, it is the essence of our brand marketing – innovation, wit and creativity. Finding the right fit is a carefully thought out process that involves identifying and reviewing each partnership opportunity against our brand guidelines and connection to our target audience. If anything, these guidelines make it easier for us to narrow in on those partnership opportunities that best support the brand.

Size matters

Another key component for identifying the right partnership opportunity is the size of the project you plan to support. In the world of arts partnerships, there are an endless number of arts organizations looking for financial assistance – particularly since big tobacco has been forced to step aside. But in the case of the large-scale programs, ending up at the bottom of a long list of sponsors is not our idea of good value – even if we’re talking about the hottest show in town.

Instead, we try to align ourselves with the medium- and smaller-sized arts programs, the ones that tend to fall just below the radar of mainstream audiences. This provides us with an opportunity to associate ourselves with cutting-edge art initiatives before they become mainstream, while giving us a platform to play a more active role in the partnership through a promotion or publicity event.

We’ve also found that in identifying the right partnership, it’s as important to know who you are as it is to know who you’re not. That’s why you’ll never find Absolut associated with a sporting event – in our opinion, sports and spirits just don’t mix.

Holly Wyatt is national marketing manager, spirits division, at Toronto-based Maxxium Canada (distributor of Absolut Vodka). She can be reached at: (416) 535-7899.