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By Theresa Howard - July 24, 2006

Daniel Craig will become the sixth and the newest face of James Bond with the release of Casino Royale in November, but another familiar face will return for the first time since 1999.

Smirnoff will again be the vodka for the martini-loving spy — who famously demands his be "shaken, not stirred." The brand's history with Bond dates to its appearance in the first 007 film, Dr. No in 1962.

Smirnoff will be on a smaller roster of promotional partners than has been the case for recent product-placement-heavy Bond flicks. This is the first Bond movie marketed and distributed by Sony Pictures, one of the new owners of MGM along with a consortium of private equity firms.

Under MGM and Eon Marketing, which owns the James Bond rights, the last Bond movie —Die Another Day — had about 20 partners who anted up a total of $100 million in marketing support. One of them was Brown-Forman's Finlandia vodka, which spirited away rights to be 007's vodka when Diageo-owned Smirnoff got sidetracked in a corporate reorganization.

Just eight companies will be part of Sony's global marketing for the latest film, which tells the story of a young Bond just starting out.

"We have fewer marketers by choice," says Mary Goss Robino, senior vice president, global marketing partnerships. "We work hand-in-hand with them to make sure everything fits with the brand and the character James Bond.

Though Casino Royale is movie No. 21 in the Bond franchise produced by Eon, it's based on the 1952 first novel in the 007 series by the late Ian Fleming. "Because this is James Bond's beginnings," says Robino, "there are fewer gadgets, and it's much more edgy."

The Bond movies — helped by fewer marketers this time — work well to help promote an upscale image for a vodka brand, says Mark Breene, Smirnoff vice president.

"Bond is known as having discerning taste," he says.

Smirnoff will try to use the November release of Casino Royale to help drive sales for the holidays — December is Smirnoff's biggest sales month. In addition to placement in the film, it will have a TV ad with the spy breaking a bottle of Smirnoff out of a booby-trapped briefcase. It also will sponsor a sweepstakes with prizes of $10,000 for entering codes from Smirnoff bottles at a website.

A Web-based "Shaken & Stirred" contest will let visitors create Bond music mixes using the James Bond Theme. The creator of the winning entry gets a trip to London for the world movie premiere.

The cutback in partners is a good move, says Mitch Litvak, CEO of The L.A. Office, a company that connects studios and marketers. "There's a point where there are too many partners, but the studios are much more proactive about making sure they don't overdo it, especially for something with as much caliber as Bond."