Debut flavors Electric Berry and Electric Mandarin are brightly
colored with a look and taste that resembles Gatorade or Powerade.
Despite the similarities, Ms. Boyd said Ice Electric will not be
marketed like a boozy sports drink. "It's not a performance drink;
it's not a sports drink; it's not an energy drink," she said.
But the campaign, by 72andSunny, does position the drink as
something to imbibe while active, specifically while dancing. Ads
show Ms. Winkle wearing a metallic blue bodysuit and boogying down
with many people half her age. The tagline is "Keep It Moving."
Booze brands typically use younger spokespeople. But Ms. Winkle,
whose real name is Helen Ruth Van Winkle, has a social media
following as strong as any A-list millennial celeb. She has 1.8
million followers on Instagram, where her tagline is "Stealing your
man since 1928." Her page is full of pictures of her in revealing
outfits and shirts carrying provocative sayings like "Everybody
must get stoned." Last year, she hung out backstage with Miley
Cyrus as the singer rehearsed for the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards.
The New York Daily News has called Ms. Winkle an
"over-the-hill rebel" who "has been the cool grandma of Instagram
The Ice Electric launch follows moves by big brewers into the
hard soda category. Brands flooding the market in recent months
include MillerCoors' Henry's Hard Soda, in ginger ale and orange
flavors, and Anheuser-Busch InBev's Best Damn Brewing Co.,
whose flavors include cherry cola. Brewers are even starting to
capitalize on the sparkling water craze with alcoholic offerings
such as Truly Spiked & Sparkling by Boston Beer Co.
But as alcohol marketers create drinks that look like sodas and
sports drinks, they risk generating scrutiny from regulators or
politicians over the issue of underage drinking. "They've got to be
extra cautious with products like this," said Benj Steinman,
president of trade publication Beer Marketer's Insights. But "they
are taking some steps to be [careful], and so far there's been no
There have been isolated negative incidents. For instance,
earlier this year police were called to an Applebee's in Tennessee
after three children ordered root beer but were mistakenly served
Not Your Father's Root Beer, according to local news reports. The
brand, distributed by Pabst, contains 5.9% alcohol by volume.
Smirnoff Ice Electric has 5% ABV. (An average light beer is
4.2%, and Bud Light Lime-A-Rita, a similarly sweet brew has 8%
ABV.) Labeling on the front and back of the bottles says, "Must be
21+ to purchase," as does the top of the cap, which Ms. Boyd said
exceeds regulator demands.
Diageo will also dedicate 40% of its media spending on the brand
to responsibility ads, compared with its normal 20%. One of those
spots shows Ms. Winkle putting down a Smirnoff and picking up a
water, while saying the secret to staying young is pacing
Ms. Boyd also pointed out that the product launched under the
Smirnoff name because it is widely known as an alcohol brand. "We
just felt like it was the right thing to do make sure it was really
clearly telegraphed as an alcoholic beverage," she said.
Smirnoff Ice Electric is also running spots starring deaf dance
teacher Chris Fonseca. He was recently used in a campaign for the
core Smirnoff brand called "We're Open." It is part of Smirnoff's
push to "celebrate diversity and move people to be more inclusive,"
Smirnoff Marketing Director Julie Bramham
said in a statement in March.