Diageo is investing a record £47m in its Christmas marketing and predicts recent innovations will boost overall festive spirits sales by 5% to £833m this year.

As part of the mammoth spend, a new through-the-line ad push will run from October across Diageo's core spirits Gordon's, Bell's, Smirnoff, Baileys and Morgan's Spiced and link the brands to specific drinking occasions. Smirnoff will benefit from a £4.6m spend this season while £4.5m has been dedicated to Baileys.

A new Baileys Hazelnut flavour will launch on October 1 (rsp: £12.99 per 70cl) while a new 5cl bottle format for the Original flavour will launch into the off-trade in November. At £1.50 per bottle, it would compete with confectionery as an impulse purchase, predicted Louise McKerrow, marketing manager for Baileys. Freestanding units, each containing 24 of the bottles, will be distributed ready-filled to 3,000 stores, to be situated on counters or in chillers, said McKerrow.

Last Christmas, off-trade spirits were up 8.5% on the previous year to £793m [Nielsen 12w/e 27 December 2009], with Diageo brands accounting for £36m of the £58m of extra sales, said Dave Smith, sales director Diageo GB.

This season's 5% growth target was described as "conservative" by Diageo but Smith expected recent innovations such as premix cans and its Smirnoff Cocktail ranges to contribute to an incremental £40m sales opportunity for the overall category, compared to last Christmas.

"Retailers should stop and think and not just run into Christmas in the same way as last year," said Smith. "They need to do something different, whether that's getting 5cl Baileys on the counter or listing pre-mixes."

Diageo launched a separate £8m campaign called The Smirnoff Nightlife Project last week, as part of a £25m investment in the vodka brand over the coming 12 months. The campaign involves 14 countries, which will each swap the best elements of a night out in that country, as ­voted by consumers on Facebook or at dedicated Smirnoff-sponsored evening events. 

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