Smirnoff vodka is the world's biggest-selling spirit by volumes, as well as one of the three most valuable, and one of the main trophies in the cabinet of drinks giant Diageo. Arch-rival Absolut may arguably have had the edge as far as trend-setting is concerned (at least until recently), but Smirnoff has size on its side. It is sold in more than 130 countries worldwide, with an overall lead enhanced by the fact that, for almost 30 years after the Second World War, it was virtually the only vodka available for purchase outside communist Russia. At the turn of the 21st century the brand enjoyed considerable success with ready-to-drink spin-off Smirnoff Ice. In America this so-called "malternative" didn't even contain vodka, allowing it to compete head-to-head with the local beer industry. More recently though, vodka as a whole sector appears to have lost some of its charm for drinkers, prompting Diageo to seek out new avenues for growth for its biggest brand. The group still markets Smirnoff Ice as well as other single-serve premixed cocktails, malt beverages and "spiked seltzers". It even tested a Smirnoff-branded fruit cider. The main Smirnoff Red label is accompanied by higher-proof Blue, Black and even Silver editions. Diageo has also dabbled in ultra-premium variants like a special edition for global duty free containing real flakes of gold, though these have been limited to avoid cannibalisation of its other premium and super-premium brands such as Ciroc and Ketel One. Total Smirnoff volumes for 2019 were 25.5m cases according to Impact Databank, with a retail value of around $3.5bn. Smirnoff Ice and other ready-to-drink spin-offs contributed around another 3.5m equivalent cases. Catharina von Franck is now global brand director, based in London; Fernando Lacambra leads the brand in North America. Both report to Mark Sandys, global head of Smirnoff, beer and Baileys.
Last full revision 25th March 2019
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Who are the competitors of Smirnoff? The total vodka market is estimated at around 500m cases annually, although the majority of that quantity is consumed within Russia and the CIS. Volumes excluding the CIS are around 190m cases. Smirnoff accounted for 26.0m cases in 2017 (according to Impact Databank), and Diageo's other vodka brands (including Ciroc and Ketel One) contribute around another 7m cases. Main competitors within the premium sector are Absolut (Pernod Ricard, 11.3m cases Impact Databank 2017), new US challengers Tito's (Fifth Generation, 5.8m) and New Amsterdam (E&J Gallo, 5.0m), Svedka (Constellation, 4.5m), Skyy (Campari, 3.8m cases), Stolichnaya (SPI, 3.7m cases), Grey Goose (Bacardi, 3.5m cases), Russian Standard (3.4m cases) and Finlandia (Brown-Forman, 3.0m cases). There are also numerous regional or non-premium vodkas from Eastern European markets including Khortytsa, Khlebny Dar, Belenkaya, Nemiroff and Pyatt Ozer. See also Alcoholic Beverages Sector index
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Historical profile information for Smirnoff
Recent stories from Adbrands Update:
Adbrands Weekly Update 8th Oct 2019: "Infamous Since 1864". More potted history in this lavish new campaign from 72andSunny and Hollywood director Rupert Sanders. It claims to Smirnoff's first global campaign for 25 years, and it marks a very notable improvement on the grim work that the brand has been delivering for the past few years in the US and Europe. Even if it's not quite back to the standard of its 1980s and 1990s glories (see below for the story behind the making of Michel Gondry's marvellous "Smarienberg" film). It's all done with considerable style and elegance, but they must be kidding if they think we'll suspend disbelief and think of Smirnoff as something secret, mysterious or infamous, known only to rascally initiates. It may have started life as a outlaw tipple, but it's been the world's best-selling spirit by volumes for at least the past 30 years.
Adbrands Social Media 17th Aug 2018: FRIDAY CLASSIC: Smirnoff "Smarienberg" by Lowe Howard-Spink (1997). If you visited the cinema in the Nineties in the UK, you will certainly remember the series of three 'Through the Bottle' films made by Lowe Howard-Spink for vodka brand Smirnoff, and shown along with other ads before the movie. 'Smarienberg' was the last of the trio, an electrifying spot directed by Michel Gondry. The cinema was already virtually the only place where advertising for spirits could be seen, and Gondry's film was the perfect appetiser for the main feature, mashing up a succession of familiar movie scenarios to a thrilling breakbeat soundtrack. ...[Story continues here]..
Adbrands Weekly Update 25th Oct 2017: In an extraordinary upset to the status quo in the US spirits market, Tito's Handmade Vodka - the only independently owned brand among the 40 top-selling spirits - has overtaken established giants Smirnoff and Jack Daniel's to become the biggest brand by revenues in US retail channels. According to data from IRI quoted originally by trade source Wine & Spirits Daily, craft-based Tito's registered sales of $190m in the year to September, up an astonishing 44%. Jack Daniel's Black Label was at $178m and Smirnoff at $173m. Those totals don't include bar sales, which probably give the more established brands the edge overall. Nevertheless it's an extraordinary achievement for a brand celebrating only its 20th birthday. Tito's is still wholly owned by founder Bert "Tito" Beveridge, now one of the newest members' of the US billionaires club with an estimated net worth of around $2.5bn.
Adbrands Weekly Update 21st Jul 2016: Diageo has appointed Vince Hudson as SVP & global brand director for Smirnoff vodka. Hudson was previously VP, US marketing for Samsung mobiles, and before that spent 20 years at P&G.
Adbrands Weekly Update 22nd Oct 2015: Ads of the Week: "What We Bring". Smirnoff vodka has launched what is said to be its biggest ever global marketing campaign in a partnership with agency 72andSunny and alt-media upstart Vice. The resulting push aims to create a “global social movement powered by music collaborations that span the globe”. It's pretty cool stuff, and a vigorous response to Bacardi's equally millennial-targeted new marketing campaign, which launched last week. Enjoy!
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