Saaga Says ‘Spill It!’ in U.S. Debut

NEW YORK Is the world ready for another overpriced vodka?

Saaga 1763 certainly hopes so, and the Estonian vodka tapped Omnicom Group’s Wolff Olins in New York to help it compete in the U.S. (where it bowed a month ago) against established luxe brands like Grey Goose and Trump Super Premium.

Priced at $30-50, the vodka targets an upscale professional demographic through a combination of word-of-mouth marketing, limited print and what Wolff Olins calls “trade advocacy.” The latter consists of convincing bartenders, waitresses, chefs and other influencers to recommend Saaga to patrons.

This is accomplished in a variety of ways, e.g., tastings at bars, menu placements for cocktails that use Saaga vodka and event sponsorships.

“We want to impress the bar staff. They need to feel comfortable and have a sense of belief in the brand,” said Dean Crutchfield, svp, marketing at Wolff Olins.

Print broke in this week’s New York Village Voice and Time Out. The work shows a frosted bottle with the headline, “Spill it.” The text-heavy vessel features short narratives. “There’s a story on the bottle. It’s a description of characters and focuses on sex, money, mobsters and politics,” said Crutchfield.

Saaga is, so far, only available in Texas, New York, Florida and California. This is due to the complexities of securing distribution. “You’ve got companies like Diageo and Bacardi who are dominant players and have relationships with distributors,” said Crutchfield. “You’ve got to break into that both as a brand and as product. It’s a very tough market to break into, both in gaining attention from the trade and from consumers and distributors.”

The vodka market, especially the so-called super premiums that include names such as Grey Goose and Trump Super Premium Vodka, is growing. Last year vodka was responsible for 28 percent of spirits sales, generating $3.9 billion in revenues for distillers, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. That’s up from $3.6 billion the year before. Proving that others see the market’s growth potential, Anheuser-Busch, brewer of Budweiser and other beers, introduced a vodka this week called Purus priced at about $35.

Saaga, per sources, is spending between $1-2 million on the campaign. “A big vodka train is coming to the United States. I would say we are the last wagon on that,” said Veako Paalma, marketing manger of Saaga.