Sobieski Targets 'Forgotten' Boomers

U.S. consumers 50 and older number 100 million and spend some $3.5 trillion per year. By 2015, they will represent more than 45% of the U.S. population, with more than 75% of its wealth.

Yet outside of age- and retirement-specific categories, relatively few brands focus on wooing those over 50 -- never mind those 65 and older. 

That has certainly been true in the spirits industry, where brands have largely concentrated on men 24 to 35, says Chester Brandes, president and CEO, Imperial Brands, the Belvédère S.A. U.S. subsidiary that imports and markets Sobieski Vodka, among other spirits brands.

Spirits marketers "act as if people over the age of 35 don't matter, and that's always annoyed me," Brandes tells Marketing Daily.

So, he says, he set out to validate his premise that Sobieski would benefit by reaching the over-50 crowd with the right approach. 

The result is the brand's "Sobieski Silver" initiative, which aims to make Sobieski the vodka of choice for Boomers.



Sobieski started at The Villages, a retirement community north of Orlando, Fla., that boasts 70,000 residents, and four liquor stores. The brand began holding seminars, themed on its "Truth in Vodka" positioning, among the community's some 1,000 social clubs, offering education about vodka truths and myths, cocktail recipes and food pairings, and interactive activities such as bartending skills. 

Within six months, Sobieski was the largest-selling white spirit in the community's liquor outlets, and The Villages soon became Sobieski's largest single account in Florida, Brandes reports. "The response was amazing," he says. "People really appreciated events that reflect their vibrant, social lifestyles -- a refreshing change from the pitches for hearing aids, reverse mortgages and financial consulting."

As a result of that success, the brand is now identifying retirement communities around the nation to which it can expand the Sobieski Silver initiatives.  

Sobieski's other efforts to reach Boomers will include "celebrating" the career and life stories of older bartenders, starting with media outreach and public relations. "We're also looking at social media and the right media vehicles for advertising" to convey these stories, reports Brandes, who was a panelist at last week's Bloomberg Longevity Economy Conference.

Sobieski currently retails for about $11 per 750-ml. bottle and $19.99 per 1.75-liter bottle. That, says Brandes, means that Sobieski is "over-delivering on quality at a reasonable price." This makes it attractive to Boomers, who tend to be more concerned about brand value than brand image, and particularly to retirees on fixed incomes -- another reason Sobieski sees this demographic as representing significant opportunities, he says. 

Sobieski's Boomers push is part of broader, renewed marketing and brand expansion efforts underway at Imperial, after a period of restructuring by parent Belvédère. 

After the Polish vodka brand was launched in the U.S. in 2007, it became one of the fastest brands ever to reach nearly 1 million cases, reports Shanken News Daily. While its growth continued through the restructuring, despite significantly reduced marketing budgets, it slowed to 4% last year (reaching 980,000 case depletions). This year, Sobieski expects depletions to increase by 3% to 5%, Brandes told Shanken.

2 comments about "Sobieski Targets 'Forgotten' Boomers".
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  1. Hanna Gryncwajg from Hanna G, October 17, 2013 at 11:40 a.m.

    Indeed we are everywhere, we've even built a niche cable network just for this huge population of Boomers, it's called RLTV. Filled with relevant, lifestyle programming for them, about them. Glad to hear a smart marketer recognize that fact...good for you Imperial. I'm a Boomer and polish so Sobieski your on my shopping list.

  2. Cece Forrester from tbd, October 17, 2013 at 4:53 p.m.

    Jon, you are so right! One would think the marketing industry, having access to so much actual information, would be able to keep its thinking free from stereotypes. Yet it seems the hardest thing to do.

    Having said that, they were probably smart to select one community and its liquor stores for a test that could not be dismissed.

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