I don’t know a huge amount about marketing and branding, which is exactly why I couldn’t help but find Carl Gurdjian’s opening gambit amusing.
“It all started back in 2013 when Formula E was yet to be launched and my agency PHG UK Ltd. went to Mumm Champagne with the support of Mr Paul-Charles Ricard (Shareholder of the Pernod Ricard Group),” said the charismatic Gurdjian.
“Formula E was nothing but a presentation on a USB stick and initially it was very difficult to sell to such an established brand as Mumm Champagne which was so involved with Formula 1.
“With a lot of enthusiasm, Mr Ricard and I were both convinced Mumm needed to make the switch from F1 to this non existing yet very successful championship.”
As sales pitches go it was a brave one, but it has paid off because Mumm has become an instantly recognisable and vivid partner within Formula E, both on and off track.
It was a complicated process, but step by step Mumm became the Champagne of choice in the brave new world of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship.
That first season was effectively a taster, an aperitif if you will. By the 2015-16 campaign, Mumm became Formula E Official Champagne partner for the next three seasons.
“I believed in Formula E the second I heard about it and I have never stopped believing in the vision of Alejandro [Agag] and his team since then,” said Gurdjian.
“Knowing it would be a big success, it didn’t make sense not having Mumm as part of this innovative and revolutionary venture.”
Sustainability and innovation are key components for Mumm champagne & the Pernod Ricard Group and over the decades this 191 years old iconic brand has always been connected to many high energy sporting events.
Whether it be Formula 1 or horse racing, the identity of the brand has always been memorable associated to celebrations.
One of Mumm Champagne’s core value is its avant-garde positioning and passion for innovation.
“I have been working with Mumm since 2008 and the brand keeps reinventing itself,” says Gurdjian.
“Pernod Ricard, as the second wine and spirit group, is pushing for innovation and sustainability so growing within Formula E and embodying Mumm’s icon of victory status was inevitable.”
The most famous bottle is the Cordon Rouge, but in established markets like the U.S. or growing ones like Hong Kong, the champagne house capitalized on Formula E to launch its new Mumm Grand Cordon bottle.
This is a newer version of the Cordon Rouge and that bottle has been made by renowned industrial designer and artist Ross Lovegrove.
The lightest bottle of Champagne in the world and using the most recycled components, it showcases both the sustainable and avant-garde approach that the company has striven to lead in.
The true ‘champagne moment’ for Mumm comes of course on the podium, but as Gurdjian explains it needed some element of reinvention.
“It was a very simple process of capitalizing on existing assets as we went from the iconic three-liter Jeroboam and switched to the six-liter Methusaleh,” he said.
“By doing that we simply doubled the exposure of the brand within the podium ceremony because it takes twice the time to spray.”
The Methuselah weights roughly nine kilos, which is six kilos of champagne and three of glass. The process where the bubbles are created means that the simplest way to get the perfect spray is by hitting the bottle on the ground then putting it on the shoulder forcing the pressure to go down.
Think of an action movie hero using an extinguisher to douse a raging inferno. With the pressure going down and then it is just a matter of spraying it the right way.
“I would say last year in Mexico City that Lucas sprayed it for about 38 seconds, whereas in the past it was more like 15,” says Gurdjian.
“Part of the activation is of course not only to reward the driver, but also the team. We realised that why should it be only the driver drinking the champagne, why not the mechanics, the team principal and even the PR people.”
This inclusive policy has gone down well with the Formula E family and it is something which sits perfectly next to the roster of other activations driven by Mumm.
“Formula E to us is 50 percent automotive, 50 percent lifestyle,” believes Gurdjian.
“At the Emotion Formula E Club we will bring expertise in the guest experience, whether we do mixology cocktails with champagne, party presentation as we did in Hong Kong with dancers, where we teach people how to correctly sabre champagne bottles.”
There are also practical considerations too. The reality is that with Formula E racing in city centers it is a one-day event.
This means that corporate hospitality programmes are not as expensive as other championships and they are easier to access and for commuting to.
For Gurdjian this is an important part of Formula E’s ambience, as is the working relationship with key Formula E figures.
“For me Alejandro is a fantastic leader and he can turn people towards great projects and make them achieve almost anything,” Gurdjian explained.
“Ten years ago if we had talked about Formula E people would have said it was crazy.
“Five years ago they also said the same and today they are being proved wrong again. This fits in to the daring nature of what we like to do with our product which makes it even more satisfying when we deliver.”