Smirnoff celebrates inclusivity with campaign to shed light on the deaf community

Smirnoff is looking to push its position as a “meaningful” brand through a new campaign that aims to celebrate the deaf community with a message of inclusivity.

The documentary-style ad, which launches on social media today (18 March) ahead of TV activity on Monday (21 March) tells the story of Chris Fonseca, a deaf dance teacher from London, who teaches other deaf dancers that there are ways to enjoy music beyond hearing it.

The £4m integrated campaign will bring its ‘We’re Open’ messaging to TV for the first time, while there will also be outdoor and digital activity.

Dan Hatton, marketing manager at Smirnoff, told Marketing Week that the brand has always been celebrated inclusiveness, citing the fact it has supported Gay Pride for more than 16 years.

He said: “There are elements of society where exclusion can occur, so we want to encourage people to be more inclusive. We also want to help shift the dialogue around brand equity related measures, so we’ll be looking at how meaningful the ad is to people.”

While the first push was based around various cultural moments, such as the General Election and Pride in London, the brand is now looking to take a more “personal” approach and tell individual stories.

“[Our first campaign] was community-led marketing. This is the first time we’ve made ‘We’re Open’ personal and real. We want to celebrate Chris and his group at scale for the first time,” he said.

“What’s great about the work is that it is so personal and real. A lot of brands might do big activations with celebrities, but this guy is a real icon in his community and it’s a heart warming story, so it’s a real celebration.”

The first push of the campaign proved successful, claims Hatton, hence the decision to invest in TV. He said Smirnoff saw increases in brand familiarity  and “favourable figures” around brand sentiment following the initial activity, while its trade value increased 6.1% year on year in 2015, ahead of the overall vodka market which grew by 5%.

Figures from Mintel show that Smirnoff remains the largest vodka brand in the off-trade and increased its lead between 2013 and 2015, increasing sales by over £70m and claiming a 36% value share of the segment.

“Even though we’re in a challenging environment, we believe we’re in a decent position,” said Hatton. “We want to connect with more communities that we think are ambassadors for the brand and shine a light on their inspirational stories.”