Shaken, Not Stirred, But No
About half an hour into "Dr. No," the very first James Bond film in 1962, Sean Connery's Agent 007 gets a medium-dry vodka martini -- shaken not stirred, of course -- delivered to him in his Jamaican hotel. Historians of the spirits industry consider that drink to be a flash point in America's transition to mixing martinis with vodka rather than gin.
Now, 40 years later, with the movie franchise still going strong and a ban on TV liquor ads, what better association could a vodka company have than James Bond? That's certainly how Finlandia views it, and Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry will be shown sipping the company's vodka in the latest Bond movie, MGM's "Die Another Day," which opens on Nov. 22.
"This is an unbelievable coup for us," says Scott Reid, global marketing director for Finlandia, a unit of Brown-Forman Corp.
But Finlandia's product placement isn't without a bit of intrigue. The martini in "Dr. No" was mixed with Smirnoff's vodka. And Smirnoff has made product placements and promotional tie-ins for the last three Bond films as well.
Why did James Bond switch vodkas?
Smirnoff blames demographics. "We are really looking to attract consumers that are more in the 21 to 29 age group," says a Smirnoff spokeswoman. "People in that age group socialize more ... and that fits in with their perceptions of Smirnoff and when it's best enjoyed." Bond's audience is men age 25 to 45, she says, adding, "James Bond isn't about socializing with friends. Bond is about status and being cool."
MGM responds that Bond's target audience is men and women age 13 to 59, but marketing material from Eon Productions, which controls the James Bond trademark, indicates that the real core audience for Bond films is at either end of that span. Figures attributed to National Research Group, a Hollywood research firm, show that teenage boys -- some of whom first encountered Bond in the popular "GoldenEye 007" videogame -- and men over 35 are more likely to identify themselves as Bond fans than men in other age groups. That's not an ideal vodka audience: Older men already have a favorite brand, and distilled-spirits companies aren't supposed to market to teenage boys.
But Finlandia isn't deterred. The typical Finlandia drinker is between the ages of 25 and 39, a spokeswoman says, when customers have more discretionary income and are developing a taste for higher-quality vodka. She also notes that since Mr. Brosnan took on the spy hero role in 1995, box-office sales have steadily increased, reaching just under $127 million.
By that logic, "Die Another Day" represents a substantial opportunity for Finlandia, a relatively small brand in the U.S., to convert some Bond fans from Smirnoff to Finlandia. With 1.6 million cases shipped world-wide in 2001, Finlandia is the second-largest super premium vodka in the world behind Absolut. Since 1996, the vodka's growth has also been primarily in the U.S. Still, it had less than a 1% share of the U.S. vodka market last year, while Smirnoff had a 16% share.
The switch in the U.S. to vodka from gin began after World War II and gathered momentum through the 1960s, says Paul Pacult, managing director of Spirit Journal Inc., an alcohol beverage consulting and publishing concern.
Meanwhile, Bond creator Ian Fleming, an intelligence agent in Moscow in the 1930s, had developed an affection for Russian vodka. Later, when he discovered American martinis, he combined the two, according to John Cork, author of "James Bond, the Legacy: 40 Years of 007 Films," who adds that "James Bond probably did more to popularize the vodka martini itself than any other single factor."
In "Die Another Day," Mr. Brosnan sips his martini with Ms. Berry in the ice palace, a key setting of the film. The name "Finlandia" is never spoken, but Mr. Bond, with one hand in the pocket of his trademark black tuxedo and the other hugging his martini glass, stands in front of a chiseled ice bar stacked with Finlandia bottles.
Historically, MGM hasn't been shy about featuring commercial products in Bond movies. The term "James Brand" has been around for a decade, and the most recent Bond flick, "The World Is Not Enough," may be as well known for its nonstop pitching of the then-new BMW Z8 as anything else.
Finlandia has the right look for the new Bond film, MGM Studios says. "It's upscale, the packaging has a very icy look, and ice plays a big part in this film," says Mary Goss Robino, senior vice president, world-wide promotions, for MGM Studios.
Finlandia says it will provide marketing support for the movie "in the seven figures." It plans print ads in magazines, outdoor billboards, posters and bottle collars, online martini contests, Bond theme nights and trivia games, as well as a sweepstakes to win a trip to an "ice hotel" in the Arctic Circle.