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Liquor firms ad-lib with rock shows

business Updated: Sep 22, 2007 02:29 IST
Gaurav Choudhury

The nearly $2-billion Indian liquor industry, hemmed in by stringent advertising restrictions, is strumming the rock-and-roll chord to get around them.

With government and the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) maintaining a strict vigil even on surrogate advertising, liquor brands are increasingly using music to connect with consumers.

For the record, India is the largest whiskey market consuming 60 million cases in 2006, overtaking the United States with 40 million cases by a fair margin.

Bacardi-Martini India had created the popular “Bacardi Blast” as the company’s main marketing plank, especially in the wake of the ban on liquor advertisements. The company had initially conceived the Blast as an on-the-ground promotion with live music concerts in the leading metros. Seagram joined in by promoting emerging and established musicians, including the production of albums and live gigs.

Vijay Mallya-promoted United Spirits Limited (USL) is now launching an aggressive outreach program — DSP Black Rockilution, a 7-city rock music contest.

Mathew Xavier, Business Head, United Spirits Limited (USL) said: “The idea on transforming the brand with the new attractive packaging and communication is in line with our renewed focus on the DSP Black whiskey brand.” Xavier said the company would initiate more youth and music talent promotion platforms in the next few years, which would “become the symbol for status and fun”.

Sundeep Kumar, director, All India Brewers’ Association, and director, corporate affairs, SAB Miller India, said that in most cases the promotions rode on brand extensions, which include products such as bottled water, CDs and associated items. “There is definitely an appropriate brand fit with music”, Kumar said.

In June this year the Boston bad boys Aerosmith stormed tech town Bangalore, sponsored by USL that used it to build its Royal Challenge brand.

A top liquor company honcho, who did not wish to be identified, said: “We have been receiving enquiries for sponsoring concerts by bands such as U2 and Europe in India. The opportunity is huge,” he said.