In February 2017, Absolut launched its first new flavor in over four years: Absolut Lime. A lot was banking on this rollout, considering the sharp decline in vodka sales beginning in 2014, a rise in competition from the whiskey market and a growing fatigue of sickly sweet flavors like cookie-dough vodka.
In a major activation effort with 360i, Absolut landed on the 59th annual Grammy Awards as the venue for the new product debut to target younger drinkers, between the ages of 21 and 30.
“We’ve always had a rich heritage in collaboration and music, so the Grammys felt like the right platform to launch Absolut Lime in a bold, iconic way, really befitting the brand while connecting to millennial consumers, who we know not only love flavored vodkas, but also look to music platforms for inspiration,” said Nick Guastaferro, director of marketing at Pernod Ricard, Absolut.
Through careful research, 360i helped create a number of strategic partnerships in the days leading up to the launch, including one with Entertainment Tonight for an Absolut Lime Green Room where on-air personalities reported all Grammy-related news. The 360i team also placed an Absolut Lime ad that ran during the awards show.
How did the massive unveiling and activation all come together? Scott Daly, svp, integrated media practice lead at 360i, said it took over six months of careful planning. Looking at the VMAs as an example, viewership for that show had been down a third from the year prior, making the Grammys seem like a bit of a gamble. But, according to Daly, a performance at the VMAs by Beyoncé garnered three times the audience in 48 hours online. “We knew there was a big opportunity to create even a larger event than actually just the live broadcast itself,” he said. Plus, how many millennials are actually watching a three-hour broadcast? Most engage on Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook.
The game plan, then, was for Absolut Lime to be everywhere on Grammy night.
Absolut’s #RefreshTheTalk campaign garnered 58 million social impressions on the evening of the Grammy Awards. The Absolut Lime Grammy activation generated over 150 million impressions in just one night.
A thirst for flavored spirits plateaued in 2014, so Absolut needed to find a fresh way to encourage consumers to try this new flavor of vodka. It also needed to convince those unable to attend the Grammys that the product was worthy of their hard-earned cash. “This was the most important launch for Absolut in about 10 years. They wanted a big event with a beginning, middle and end communications structure,” Daly said.
Create an unforgettable experience for anyone attending the Grammys and get all attendees of legal drinking age to test the product. “We wanted to re-engage consumers, bartenders and retailers to help drive the launch of our new product, but also to drive and connect with Absolut original,” Guastaferro said. Absolut also wanted its latest flavor to measure up, success wise, to its other No. 1 selling citrus flavors—Absolut Citron and Absolut Mandarin.
Absolut Lime opened 59 branded bars inside the Staples Center the night of the event so everywhere attendees looked, Absolut Lime was there. Outside of its partnership with Entertainment Tonight, Absolut also partnered with E! News on the red carpet. Artists Santigold and Skylar Grey carried LED-powered clutches as part of the brand’s social “Refresh the Talk” execution. The goal was to have the artists talk not about their outfits, but topics that mattered to them, like women’s rights. People could tweet their own thoughts using #RefreshTheTalk, while issues important to the artists would appear in real time on the LED clutches.
While it’s still early for solid sales numbers for Absolut Lime, Guastaferro said the product has “exceeded our shipment and depletion forecast,” while also receiving “positive consumption trends from Nielsen” after only being on the market for two months. 18,000 consumers had a chance to try the product at the Grammys, while many more were able to interact with the brand on social media the same night.