From Aston Martin to Smirnoff vodka... Here's why the James Bond franchise is so obsessed with brands

07:00 AM Oct 02, 2021 | IANS

Albert ‘Cubby’ Broccoli, co-creator of the James Bond movie franchise, had the foresight to see that the 007 films, like the fine tastes of the super spy, were going to be too expensive to be sustained by box-office collections alone.

The Italian-American, therefore, launched the Bond tradition of product placements, aggressively continued till this day by his daughter Barbara, making brands such as Aston Martin, Omega, Dom Perignon, Beluga caviar and, yes, Smirnoff vodka a part of every cinema buff’s vocabulary. A vodka brand that originated in Tsarist Russia but has been made in America over the last eight decades, Smirnoff was a struggling spirit label in its adopted country — it was being marketed as “a white whiskey” — till the No. 21 made its first movie appearance in Dr No in 1962.


And it shows up in the 25th Bond film, the Daniel Craig-starrer No Time to Die, strategically placed in a bar scene between the actor and Blade Runner 2049 star Ana de Armas, who plays the “badass” CIA agent, Paloma. Bond films, in fact, turned the idea of a martini — London dry gin plus dry vermouth — on its head by popularising the genre of vodka martini.


Interestingly, the first cocktail to ever find a mention in an Ian Fleming James Bond novel — his first, Casino Royale — is the Americano, a refreshing summer drink that combines a measure each of Campari and Cinzano served with a generous helping of ice and a slice of lemon. In the 1953 novel, the Americano precedes the famous Vesper, named after the Russian agent Vesper Lynd. The Vesper was overshadowed by the ubiquitous vodka martini, and Finlandia (Die Another Day, 2002) and Belvedere (Spectre, 2015) have stepped in as the principal vodka brands in the rare absence of Smirnoff.

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In a new commercial that aired across Europe in the run-up to the theatrical release of No Time to Die, Daniel was seen pouring himself a glass of Heinekens zero-alcohol beer. One associates Commander Bond with bubbles of the stature of a Dom Perignon, or a Bollinger, the champagne that became synonymous with the 007 franchise after it first appeared in the Roger Moore-starrer Moonraker (1979). The brand could not have asked for a better endorsement than in A View to a Kill (1985), also starring Moore, when a character declares admiringly: “Bollinger ’75! I see you are a connoisseur, Mr Bond.”

Unlike Smirnoff, which has been a part of the 007 film lore since Dr No (1962), Champagne Bollinger was favoured by Ian Fleming’s James Bond as well — we encounter it for the first time in the Jamaica-based English writer’s third 007 novel, Diamond Are Forever (1956), when the smuggler Tiffany Case sends him a quarter bottle on board the luxury liner, Queen Elizabeth.

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So, how did Heineken, the famous Dutch beer associated in the past with the UEFA Champions League and the Rugby World Cup, get associated with No Time to Die? The brand’s tie-up dates back to the Pierce Brosnan-starrer Tomorrow Never Dies (1997). Interestingly, James Bond is seen drinking the beer only in two films — Skyfall (2012) and Spectre (2015) — and in Ian Fleming’s novels, the superspy only occasionally quaffs beer, that too a Lowenbrau, or a Miller High Life, or Red Stripes.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Daniel Craig was candid about the film’s association with a mass brand such as Heineken. “Product placement, whichever way you look at it, whether you like it or you think it’s disgusting or whatever, it’s what it is. Heineken gave us a ton of money for there to be Heineken in a shot in a bar. Without them, the movie couldn’t get sold,” Craig said.

That, in a nutshell, is the philosophy of product placement in Bond films, which have seen brands ranging from the defunct airline Pan Am to KFC and Toblerone, and of course, Heineken and Bollinger fork out tidy sums to bask in the reflected glory of 007.


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