Nutrl Vodka Soda shifts away from sweet

The B.C. ready-to-drink cocktail brand is running its second mass campaign to drive awareness before next summer.

After launching in late 2016, Nütrl Vodka Soda is putting the focus on the sugar-free nature of its product in a new mass campaign aimed at driving awareness during the off-season for marketing ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages.

Nütrl Vodka Soda and its Nütrl vodka counterpart are produced by Goodridge & Williams Distillers, a B.C. craft and independent spirits company. Last year, the vodka soda brand launched with a mass campaign on Rogers’ Sportsnet and Hockey Night in Canada to help drive awareness.

Since then, it has grown into the fastest-growing ready-to-drink vodka soda in Canada, according to Paul Meehan, partner and creative strategist at Me&Lewis, the Vancouver-based agency that led on the campaign. Meehan is also an owner in the business. Nütrl Vodka Soda can be found in every province except Quebec, and is the top-selling canned cocktail in the LCBO and in British Columbia, he says. Overall, the brand is expected to sell nearly a million cases this year.

On the heels of that growth, on Oct. 13 the brand launched “Not Sweet. Not at All,” a second mass campaign, also rolling out on Rogers’ Sportsnet and Hockey Night in Canada, designed to put more emphasis on the non-sweetness of the product. It will be in market until June, as part of a strategy to have high awareness going into the summer months.

There are four spots in total, including additional 15-second versions this time around. Two of them portray people who are overbearingly “sweet” in their romantic relationships, whereas the other show people adding too much sugar to their coffee and pancakes. All of them ask whether you find this “too sweet.”

Meehan says last year’s “This Changes Everything” tagline was effective at catching people’s attention. But in hindsight, it was “a bit aggressive” and didn’t tell enough of the product’s story. Nütrl Vodka Soda was launched as an alternative to the traditionally sweeter canned cocktails that exist in Canada and that consumer tastes have been shifting away from.

“‘Not Sweet. Not Sweet at all’ is about as direct and intrinsic as you can get,” says Meehan.

The TV buys on Rogers’ Sportsnet and Hockey Night in Canada are part of its media strategy to spend as much as reach as it does on frequency, says Meehan. That massive reach it hopes to generate through TV is supported by frequent and “conversational” engagement strategy on social. He says the brand has put around $1 million into its social spend.

In addition, through a partnership with Sportsnet radio stations, it has created a program called “The Nutrl Zone” in which sports fans and sportscasters discuss plays from Toronto Maple Leafs games and Vancouver Canucks hockey games. (The hockey term “neutral zone” refers to the area of the ice rink that lies between the two blue lines). Down the road, Meehan says it hopes to have a physical presence for the The Nutrl Zone within hockey arenas, but that’s still sorting out the logistics of doing so.

According to Meehan, sales of Nütrl Vodka Soda are coming primarily from people who are traditionally beer drinkers, especially during sporting events, which is why it views hockey as a key part of its strategy. It has not really been taking share from the RTD category, which is up almost 40% overall, he says.

The creative from last year’s campaign will likely be used to help launch Nütrl Vodka Soda in the U.S. next spring.