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Sporting Talk – Vadim Grigorian

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Coming from the position of Director of Creativity and Luxury for Pernod Ricard to serve as Royal Salute’s Global Brand Director, what were your goals? 

In my role as Luxury Director at Pernod Ricard Headquarters, I was developing new strategies focused on implementing luxury for the Group. I looked at fundamental questions such as whether drinks brands act as real luxury brands and if so, what hurdles stand in our way? Logically, the next step is to understand how our theories on luxury can be implemented in practice. Royal Salute is extremely pertinent, being the most prestigious brand for the Group and the one that has the most potential when it comes to truly reinforcing its position in luxury. I am very excited to unveil all the creative concepts we are developing for the brand very soon.

You also moved from Paris to London – do you have a favorite?

Both cities have pros and cons. I really like Paris as it’s a very romantic city. It naturally contributes to a creative energy to which I am very sensitive. Food is also a big passion of mine and, in Paris, everywhere you turn, you have access to high quality ingredients. There are markets, fishmongers, butchers and cheese-makers at your front door. I feel that in London it’s harder to access this standard of produce as easily. To me, London has a toughness or rawness to it. Perhaps because of the sheer vastness of the city, the energy isn’t as relaxed. However, I’ve observed that if you are leading a creative, artistic life, London is a true world stage for international art. More and more, I find the best exhibitions, shows and galleries. Whilst many international artists can’t afford to live in London, they are all clamoring to exhibit here. Additionally, the number of parks and open spaces is really appealing in London, offering a nice juxtaposition between the rawness of the city and the beauty of nature.

You have written that “An increasing number of organizations are placing experiences at the core of their marketing strategy and, in luxury brand management, experiences are essential.”  At British Polo Day in Los Angeles we were treated to a Quaich experience with a silver Scottish friendship cup filled with Royal Salute’s bespoke 21-year-old whisky.  How do you create these experiences for Royal Salute?

Overall, as a drinks brand, we have a very ephemeral product. Essentially, you drink it and then it’s gone. Therefore, it’s crucial we focus on brand experiences such as consumption points, events and shopper marketing. For Royal Salute, it’s even more important as a luxury brand to infiltrate and remain in the minds of consumers. We as humans relive experiences through memory and it is through memory that our brand can move out of an ephemeral space into one that is more long-lasting. It is where consumers can truly connect their own values to a brand. So for us, we are passionate about making our Royal Salute experiences distinctive. We want to work on our events and experiences with the most creative people possible, such as contemporary artists. Collaborating with artists isn’t really a new concept. Even Leonardo Da Vinci used to organize feasts for the aristocracy.  Think of his relationship with King Francois I of France – without it we wouldn’t have public access to the Mona Lisa.

The royal ties go right back to the creation of Royal Salute in 1953 in celebration of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and this year, the Prince of Wales attended the Royal Salute Coronation Cup.  What are the “royal beliefs” that are embodied in the brand?

For our celebrated signature blend, only whiskies that have slowly matured in the cask for at least 21 years are eligible. Only the finest are chosen.  As a result, we appreciate the value of Time in a way few other brands can imagine. This is why we are bound up with the tradition of royalty. We promise both continuity and flexibility, connecting nations and generations with tradition but fully rooted in the modern world. We also like to think it is about shared values – continuity, perfection, generosity and magic. We know that generations of artists, writers, and philosophers have dedicated their lives to understanding our relationship with Time – and our desire for eternal life – whether through our families, our creativity or our legacies.

You have noted with regard to high net worth individuals that your strategy is to follow consumers wherever they go. How does supporting global polo events like British Polo Day help your exposure?

British Polo Day is different to other global polo events because they are 100% private travel experiences. In this way, we are able to curate artistically-led, unique experiences in some of the most beautiful destinations across the world, focusing not only on the sport, but on the opulent lifestyle associated with polo as well. The destinations on offer are so exceptional, some of my personal favorites have been magical Morocco; the exclusive Will Rogers National Park in LA; rich, tropical Singapore; the paradise that is Nihiwatu; vibrant Mexico; and, last but not least, Jodhpur at the Maharaja’s Palace: the last of the great palaces of India and one of the largest residences in the world. Being in these wonderful places adds to the experience and helps us connect with influential guests beyond just the polo match itself, making long-lasting and meaningful connections to our brand.

How will you work with top polo player Facundo Pieres as your brand ambassador?

Royal Salute World Polo is truly international with a presence in every major region globally, so you can imagine that we are also very passionate about the people within polo. Facundo Pieres is one of the world’s most prolific professional polo players with a 10 goal handicap and a continuous desire to bring polo to a global audience. Since 2012, we have worked together to transform polo into a sport firmly rooted in tradition, yet played in the modern world. Honoring time and legacy are in the DNA of Royal Salute, so it is a privilege to extend our patronage to a sport that also encapsulates comparable values.

Equestrio also presents the global luxury lifestyle through an equestrian lens.  What is it about a love of horses that draws people together?  Do you have any personal experience of riding?

I wouldn’t say we are passionate about horses per se, but rather focus on and celebrate the sport of polo. Polo is the perfect vehicle to showcase Royal Salute, especially as we have shared values. From its profound origins rooted in noble values to the naturally evolving symbiosis between player and horse, polo regards time through a similar lens to us. It’s different from other equestrian sports such as horse racing for example.While I wouldn’t call myself a polo player or professional horse rider, I have ridden a polo pony – luckily a quite tame one! You can really feel the difference between a riding horse and a polo pony. The best ponies are bred to show quick bursts of speed, stamina, agility and maneuverability.

As luxury brands are moving beyond products to a way of life, how do you regard partnering with other brands to cross promote?

For me, it’s all about people and alignment of passions. I only want to work with people who have similar values to our brand. This should always be based on mutual respect and not simply be about money changing hands to obtain mutual benefits. Good partnerships are about the desire to develop things together – to be co-creators and collaborators. We want it to be an exciting journey of discovery and learning together. It should definitely be about a mutually evolutionary process through which we can continue to deliver memorable experiences and be part of the culture.

Amazing art graces the pages of Equestrio and we have just launched an online gallery.  What do you feel about the power of art and how do you incorporate this into your marketing strategy?

­Art alone Enduring stays to us. This is very powerful to me because from my perspective, a lot of advertising we see and marketing we experience can be forgettable. It is difficult for all marketing to deeply attach itself within popular culture and, therefore within the memories of consumers. However, we do remember the transcendental power of iconic brand collaborations with Andy Warhol. In fact, it was Warhol who insisted that art and commerce are inseparable. Working with high caliber artists means we get access to the deepest of human insights. To me, an artist is synonymous with a philosopher, a sociologist, an anthropologist – and all their research shortcuts into various realms of knowledge. As a luxury brand, we need artists, so we can learn and understand human desire. There is also a direct correlation between the art world and luxury brands in terms of the type of consumers that we attract, namely high net worth individuals. For example, there is a certain attractiveness to contemporary art at the moment (ie the increasingly popular Frieze or Art Basel) and you see many key luxury brands attracted to the world of art.

With one foot in the creative world and one in the business world, how do you find inspiration?

Many people think being inspired is equal to experiencing an epiphany. To be honest, inspiration is a result of hard work. First, you need to develop a foundation of knowledge, which generally starts with curiosity, and then develops into an understanding of different faculties. You have to be quite self-aware – aware of what’s going on in the world, aware of the people with whom you keep company. I recommend being around experts who can provide you with the intellectual access that enables you to evolve. This can be the result of inspiration and creativity, as long as you are willing to keep refreshing your knowledge, have an appreciation of historical and cultural contexts and are open to being flexible.