Smirnoff rides back into experiential

The vodka brand is busting out vendor bikes to reach those on a summer stroll with its new RTD additions.


Vendor bikes are usually associated with ice cream and Dickie Dee’s, but Smirnoff is using them to bring back sampling in two of its key markets this summer.

Over the course of the next couple months, the brand is taking its homey pastel pink coolers out to Toronto and Vancouver, sampling the latest additions to its RTD vodka soda line, a white peace rosé and a raspberry rosé.

The new SKUs were set to launch domestically in major retail outlets in March, until COVID struck and the brand had to rethink its strategy when it could not conventionally engage at retail.

According to Mark Phillips, director of marketing at Diageo, there’s been a “resurrection” of vendor bikes across the board thanks to the pandemic, and he says this simple execution allows the brand flexibility to engage with consumers who are wary of spending too much time in-store, but are increasingly out on walks and picnics to get out of the house this summer. While it’s done experiential campaigns in the past, targeting on and off-trade events, this biking activation was a “pioneering experience” for the Diageo brand, Phillips says.

There is currently also a point-of-sale shopper marketing campaign highlighting the rosé concept, and a giveaway grand prize of $10,000 on a microsite heavy on the rose petal floral motifs to push the new SKUs. There is digital and social creative driving people to the site as well.

smirnoffTo differentiate against a proliferation of RTD entries, the can design aesthetic is pale blush coloured “to stand out against the broader white world of RTDs,” Phillips says. And the branding, like others in the category, focuses on being zero sugar and zero carbs option for indulgence, he adds.

Phillips tells strategy rosé has taken off with millennials over the last couple of years and continues to extend in popularity beyond what have been traditional wine occasions. The tagline – “a new way to rosé” – is meant to reinforce the messaging. While many associate the drink with the summer months, Phillips says it will remain a popular year-round flavour.

The category has had success reaching a younger consumer base, one that is drinking fewer traditional beverages, and Phillips says that he’s happy with the equal gender breakdown in response to the vendor bike activation so far. “It’s been a real split, and we are finding we are catering to both groups,” he says.

RTD as a category is growing extremely well, he says, and ultimately success has come down to Smirnoff’s ability to offer different flavour combinations, contributing the decision to bring the flavour to Canada from its global markets.

North Strategic is the PR agency, with Vibrant Marketing handling experiential.