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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, October 29, 2006

With documentary, Stolichnaya courts gay, lesbian trendsetters

USA Today

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are attractive to distillers because they create trends and have high disposable incomes.

Advertiser library photo; Bloomberg News Service

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NEW YORK Stolichnaya vodka, which wants to oust Absolut as the reigning vodka in the gay and lesbian market, will kick off a one-year series of programs beginning today on Viacom's Logo cable channel.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) consumers are attractive both as trendsetters and for high disposable income: an expected $641 billion in spending this year, up from $600 billion in 2005, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Absolut, the top U.S. import, for many years has courted this market.

Stoli's campaign begins with a one-hour, ad-free documentary that it produced, "Be Real: Stories from Queer America," on the LGBT-oriented Logo channel. The film will appear at least 10 times on Logo as part of the yearlong deal.

Stolichnaya looked beyond traditional advertising to market "in a culturally relevant way," says Adam Rosen, senior brand manager. "Because of the nature of the community as trendsetting, they are heavily marketed to and very skeptical of advertising."

The deal with Logo also includes a six-episode reality show to air in April, tentatively titled "Be Real." It will profile pairs of couples going through parallel experiences, such as a commitment ceremony. Tomorrow, Stoli will launch www.stolibe real.com, where visitors can watch the documentary online and also nominate couples for "Be Real."

The network made the deal for the advertiser-produced shows because they are "authentic," says Logo president Brian Graden. "We started out with the question, 'Is this good content and something that our audience would like to see?' "

The shows contain no commercials but will open and close with "sponsored by Stoli" messages and a 30-second ad for Stoli's latest flavor, Blueberi.

"We're hoping to create the association that Stoli is bringing you this message and that we support your community," says Rosen.

The image of support is important because Logo viewers "disproportionately reward advertisers they know are stepping up and positively selling to the gay and lesbian audience," says Graden.

A Harris survey of 1,500 viewers commissioned by Logo found 73 percent were more inclined to buy a product advertised on Logo than on another channel, and 80 percent were more likely to watch commercials on Logo.

Stoli, bought by Pernod Ricard from Allied Domecq last year, has doubled its LGBT marketing to 10 percent of its annual marketing budget from 5 percent in 2004.

The increase comes as premium vodka sales continue to soar up 8 percent in 2005 versus 2004, according to Impact's 2006 Annual Spirits Study.

But competition within the category is fierce. Absolut and Stoli volume each rose about 3 percent from 2000 to 2005. However, Absolut's market share fell to 34.5 percent of volume from 55.6 percent in that period, while Stoli's slid slightly to 14.5 percent from 16.8 percent.