How Smirnoff partnered with LadBible to become an unlikely brand ambassador for gender and diversity

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Background

The marketing world has been plagued of late by brands misjudging their ability to take a stance in our society. This is an example of one brand – an unlikely one at that – getting it right.

You wouldn’t immediately think of Smirnoff as a brand with a socially responsible soul, but I’ve been deeply impressed with the way that a brand associated with little more than a big night-out and laddism has reinvented itself and found a new place in our culture .

This campaign works because Smirnoff has found issues on which to campaign that are true to its brand while also being relevant to its audience and, most importantly, relevant to culture.

The Big Idea

A few years back Smirnoff demonstrated that nightlife is in its DNA with its multi-million pound Culture Exchange campaign. This re-established it as a brand with its finger on the pulse of great nights.

Smirnoff's more recent campaign to get more women into headline slots at superclubs, is a list of “50 Women Making Noise” in EDM and partnerships with, most notably, Spotify through its Equalising Music platform.

That campaign took Smirnoff into one of the most important cultural discussions of our age and it did so in a way that was true to the brand, meaningful to society and its consumers.

Then there was the more recent LGBT Foundation partnership which moved the “We're Open” campaign on again. The brand brought together non-binary artists to make nightlife more diverse. Once again, true to the brand roots, relevant to the age. 

Smirnoff’s most recent move is a partnership with LadBible – a year-long commitment no less – that seeks to address issues of gender diversity and disability in night life.

The campaign takes the form of a video featuring some nightlife characters – a female bouncer and a transgender bartender. The films are beautifully shot. The stories are beautifully told.

But as impressive is the fact that Smirnoff’s money has prompted LadBible itself to address these issues. 

LadBible is has hit the marketing headlines for its Trash Isles which won big in Cannes is backing the Smirnoff cause and talking to its audience about these issues by championing what it means to be a lad.

The creative is cracking. The cultural change the broader campaign might bring is even more remarkable.

In Hindsight

This is a campaign that is working on every level for me. It’s rare that I look at a body of work – especially one that spans as great a period of time and as many different touchpoints as this one – and think “I wouldn’t have done that differently”. This is one of those moments. The cynic would question whether this is a cynical ploy to sell more Smirnoff. Maybe it is. But it’s doing something pretty remarkable along the way. And if cultural change is funded and fuelled by Vodka, so be it.

A four is as close to a five as I’ll ever get. It’s a stunner and I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing where this campaign goes next.

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James Gordon-MacIntosh

James Gordon-MacIntosh

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