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Smirnoff cashes in on Super Bowl hype

The vodka maker's party Monday night had more to do with marketing than football.

By BABITA PERSAUD

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 23, 2001


TAMPA -- Acrobats in black spandex were going to hang from the ceiling at Rain nightclub during Monday night's party performance, but it was too low. Tumblers instead did cartwheels and handstands, looking much like the cast of Cats in Day-Glo paint.

At the Reptile Encounter, a thick python named Corel lay near the staircase, available for "photo ops."

Yards and yards of bright fabric hung from corner to corner, like the inside of a harem's tent.

"This is petty cool," said Joe Vizzi, a sales manager for National Distributing who arrived early, just in time to see an acrobat strut by in a pointy bra and body paint on her lips and brows.

"Some crazy outfits," Vizzi said.

Such was the scene at Smirnoff vodka's "Get Twisted" party -- the first of many big parties planned in the area for Super Bowl week.

The theme, "Rock the Kasbah," had little to do with football.

"It's futuristic middle-eastern. I Dream of Jeanie meets Star Trek: the Next Generation," said Don Kendzior of Beyond Horizons, the Miami company producing the party for Smirnoff.

The invitation-only event was for bar owners, bartenders and waitresses who will be serving lots of liquor this week. Smirnoff wants to make sure it is their new brand of fruit-flavored vodkas.

Other beverage companies are also taking advantage of Super Bowl week. Budweiser, Captain Morgan's Rum and Seagram's are sponsoring New York Yankee star Derek Jeter's party at Rain on Friday. Sunday at Rain, Bombay Sapphire gin promoters made an appearance and gave out T-shirts, said Vaughn Rice, a Rain bartender.

The Smirnoff party is only one of several at Rain. Only 6 months old, the '50s-style lounge nightclub will also host the ESPN party Thursday night and Playboy.com's party Saturday night.

That's the one making Rain's phone really ring, Rice said. The calls are coming from everywhere -- Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Tampa -- usually with some guy on the other end saying: "Hi, I'm CEO of such-and-such company and I'm looking for tickets to the Playboy party,"' Rice said.

"Yeah, like it's that easy."

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