Grey Goose Entertainment Has Taken Flight -- With Sundance's Help

Vodka Maker a Major Part of 'Iconoclasts' and Is Bankrolling New Music Series

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NEW YORK -- The third season of "Iconoclasts" will bring together a host of unlikely pairings in the grand tradition of its two-year history: Mike Myers sits down with Deepak Chopra and Norman Lear chats with Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz. But at the heart of the series is the ongoing branded-entertainment partnership of two other seemingly strange bedfellows: the Sundance Channel and Grey Goose.

Sundance Channel's 'Iconoclasts,' which has featured star pairings such as rocker Eddie Vedder (l.) and surfer Laird Hamilton, will have Grey Goose Entertainment as a partner in its upcoming third season.


Flagship project
Since its fall 2005 premiere on the Sundance Channel, "Iconoclasts" has become something of a flagship project for both parties. Sundance's Kirk Iwanowski, the channel's exec VP-marketing, sponsorship and branded entertainment, used the project to usher in the ad-free channel's branded-entertainment division. Similarly, Grey Goose Entertainment launched in April 2005 as a branded-entertainment venture designed to create unique and innovative branded extensions for the top-shelf vodka in TV, music and film.

Since launching his division in January 2006, Mr. Iwanowski has gone on to partner with the likes of Microsoft, Lexus, Smith Barney, Cadillac and others to create content for specialized programming initiatives. While his portfolio of marketers has gotten more diversified, the challenges of creating something organic to both brands remain prevalent for Mr. Iwanowski.

"It's far easier to take a 30-second spot or a 60-second spot and put it on a TV network," he said. "But since we announced our model [last year], we've remained true to our word that we're only interested in partnering with like-minded consumer brands who are interested in creating content-based marketing platforms."

Not just large-scale projects
That doesn't mean Mr. Iwanowski is only looking for partners like Grey Goose to commit to large-scale projects such as "Iconoclasts," either. "They can come in all shapes and sizes," he said. "We're doing a short-form original series with HP [Hewlett Packard], and we're about to launch a new short-form series with Grey Goose." That new series, "Grey Goose Presents the Next Garde," is a collection of 12 one-minute interstitials that begins airing on the channel Sept. 3 and on SundanceChannel.com throughout the month.

It's also a significant next step for Grey Goose Entertainment, the nascent venture headed by the vodka brand's VP, Monsell Darville. With three seasons of "Iconoclasts" and "The Next Garde" soon to be under his belt, Mr. Darville is well on his way to completing the newest phase of his plans for Grey Goose Entertainment. "Artist's Den" is a music-oriented program that gives under-the-radar artists and bands the chance to play showy venues around the world in hopes of getting their big break. The series is currently being shot in high-definition and is being bankrolled entirely by Grey Goose Entertainment until Mr. Darville and his team find a content partner.

Mr. Darville said he has thus far "exceeded every goal" he had for Grey Goose Entertainment, particularly with a partner like Sundance and the season-by-season growth of "Iconoclasts."

"When we look at a brand like Grey Goose and the whole concept of branded entertainment, what's been the driving success has been the ability to communicate at the top of our pyramids -- psychographics, ethnicity, et cetera. And Sundance has been a fabulous filter for us in that regard."

Brand's evolving media mix
And as the Grey Goose Entertainment model evolves, so has the brand's media mix.

Traditionally, Grey Goose has spent the majority of its ad dollars in print, particularly with the likes of another key partner of "Iconoclasts," magazine publisher Condé Nast. But Grey Goose earlier this week launched its latest campaign on USA's coverage of the U.S. Open. Mr. Darnell was quick to point out that he won't be buying mass amounts of air time across multiple networks any time soon.

"We're very careful to participate in the type of programming we feel is purely appropriate as opposed to what inventory's [available]," he said. "The largest part of our [media spend] is still print, but it's more of a 60-40 mix than ever before."
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