Inside Diageo’s branding push for Ciroc

February 15, 2015, 3:13 PM UTC
Courtesy of Blue Flame Agency

Attend any A-list event in New York this weekend—New York Fashion Week runway shows, NBA All Star Game parties—and you’ll see something familiar: a cylindrical column of vodka that has made its way to nearly every event dominated by tastemakers. That’s no accident. Under the tutelage of Sean “Diddy” Combs, who’s been a spokesperson for the vodka since 2009 and helped it go from 40,000 cases sold annually to 2 million, Diageo’s Ciroc (DEO) has made it its mission to get in front of millennials and influencers who can help elevate the brand.

“We have been able to package the product and create a brand that people want to drink when they are celebrating with their circle of friends,” Combs said.

The brand is planning to introduce a new product later this year. “We have spent a great deal of time working with our master distiller to craft the first-ever sipping vodka,” Combs said.

Combs is making a major move into spirits. Earlier this year, he made the advertising executive Dia Simms the president of Combs Wine & Spirits (beyond Ciroc, he purchased DeLeón, a high-end tequila, last year). She’s looking to invest in more up and coming alcohol companies.

“I think the thing we’re looking for are great lifestyle brands with outstanding product credentials and an opportunity to market to our audience in a different way,” Simms said.

Who is that audience? “We speak a lot about a new America,” she said, “super diverse, extraordinarly digitally connected, a different level of ownership. One person can impact a company with the wrong posting, with a user review.”

To court the type of customers they want for Ciroc, it’s essential that it has a place under the tents of Fashion Week and in the flurry of events surrounding the All Star Game. “We love these cultural moments, these opportunities when those artists, those experts galvanize in one place,” Simms said. “It’s important for our brand to celebrate true artistry.”