Roster Shops Chase Global Smirnoff Brand

Incumbent JWT is expected to defend

Sources describe Diageo’s global review of its Smirnoff vodka brand as a roster shop affair.

Longtime incumbent JWT is expected to defend. Global media spending on the brand was not immediately available, but in the U.S. alone, spending approached $23 million last year, up from nearly $20 million in 2011, according to Nielsen. Those figures don't include online outlays.

JWT's relationship with Smirnoff extends beyond to the U.S. to markets such as Japan, China, India, Singapore and Australia. The agency referred calls to a Diageo representative, who confirmed the review, adding that the company already drew up a short list of contenders. The rep did not, however, identify them.

Other Diageo roster shops include Bartle Bogle Hegarty, which works on Johnnie Walker scotch whiskey and Baileys liqueur; Anomaly (Captain Morgan rum); Mother (Tanqueray gin); and Grey (Crown Royal whiskey, Ketel One vodka).

In a statement, Edward Pilkington, Diageo’s global category director for vodka, rum and gin, acknowledged Smirnoff’s “long and successful” relationship with JWT, which dates back to 2000. During that period, the vodka’s annual sales volume has grown from 15.1 million cases to 26.3 million cases, making it—by Pilkington’s own account—the largest premium spirits brand in the world.

Nonetheless, Pilkington said that “the time is right to refresh the thinking” on Smirnoff.