James Bond inks deal with Belvedere to bring back the martini

December 16, 2014, 5:39 PM UTC
Courtesy of Colombia Pictures

The vodka martini is enjoying a comeback in the next James Bond film “Spectre,” after the famed British Secret Service agent took a controversial swig of Heineken in the 2012 film “Skyfall.”

Moet Hennessy’s Belvedere has signed a marketing and advertising partnership with the Bond producers for the first time in the vodka brand’s history, with plans to piggyback off the film’s high profile throughout 2015. Belvedere has created two limited edition bottles tied to the film, and the company said it is planning its largest global campaign ever in the months leading up to its planned fall release of “Spectre.”

“With Bond, you’ve got a character of class, of sophistication, of style, a man of distinction,” said Belvedere President and Chief Executive Charles Gibb. He further described Bond as a “timeless taste maker.”

Gibb wouldn’t disclose the terms of the deal between the Polish vodka and Eon Productions, the film production company that makes the Bond series. And he also wouldn’t say if Belvedere itself would appear in the film.

Belvedere is partnering with the James Bond producers.Courtesy of Belvedere

But it is safe to assume that Bond will be imbibing in “Spectre.” Alcohol, along with fancy cars and well tailored suits, play a big role in the 007 mystique and has been a key component to the character’s development in both the novel and film representations. Bond’s signature line is his order of a martini “shaken, not stirred” and, in the earliest novels, he says he prefers Polish or Russian vodka — a nod that Belvedere in particular says is a nice fit for its brand.

But like his relationship with women, Bond isn’t exactly loyal to one specific alcoholic beverage brand or spirit. He has been seen with a variety of vodkas, including Smirnoff and Absolut. He’s also been known to drink champagnes like Bollinger and Dom Perignon, wine, and other hard liquors.

It was Bond’s partnership with beer maker Heineken that generated some notable controversy. Some fans were outraged when they found out that Bond would be drinking a Heineken in “Skyfall” (though he was also seen enjoying a martini and other alcoholic beverages throughout the film). Heineken has been a Bond sponsor since 1997, though “Skyfall” was the first time the character was seen drinking the beer on screen.

“We have always felt great about Bond and Heineken [together], because they are truly international characters and they are both premium,” said Hans Erik Tuijt, the executive responsible for sponsorships for Heineken’s brands. Tuijt said that stores that ran Bond-related promotions timed to “Skyfall” posted an 8.4% increase in sales from the prior-year period, significantly outperforming other promotions the company has implemented.

Alcoholic-beverage companies don’t necessarily need to pay Bond’s producers big money to see a jolt in sales. For example, Macallan Scotch whisky was also featured in “Skyfall,” favored by that film’s villain and mentioned by name (Heineken wasn’t named in the film). But Macallan’s owners didn’t advertise or pay for the privilege of appearing in “Skyfall.”

In the year following the release of “Skyfall,” Macallan’s U.S. sales leapt 36% in the retail channels tracked by Chicago-based market research firm IRI, growth that accelerated from earlier years. For Heineken, sales slipped 1.6% over the same period.

The association with Bond had a bigger impact on Macallan because it doesn’t have as great of a reach as Heineken does, said John Cork, co-author of the “James Bond Encyclopedia.” Additionally, Macallan was “name checked” in the film, and that’s a rare occurrence according to Cork.

“[Macallan] is not something that everyone had rolling off the tip of their tongue before they saw it in ‘Skyfall,'” Cork said.

Belvedere is producing two different bottles that will feature an etching of the British Secret Service MI6 headquarters in London, replacing the Belvedere Palace that is featured on all other bottles of the vodka. Only 100 of the MI6 bottles are being produced and they won’t be for sale, according to Gibb. The second limited-edition bottle, which features a LED light, will begin appearing at trendy bars and clubs early next year with some availability for the masses when the movie hits theaters.

“There is no better way to talk to a global audience than through a global man of distinction, an icon,” said Gibb.

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