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Coty Pumping Up Playboy, Adidas Brands

Coty Beauty is aiming to strengthen two of the driving forces behind its global fragrance business.

Coty Beauty is aiming to strengthen two of the driving forces behind its global fragrance business: The Adidas personal care brand and the Playboy fragrance franchise.

And, as part of the strategy, the unit of the nearly $4 billion, New York-based Coty Inc. is launching a trio of Playboy scents for women, in June signed retired soccer star Zinédine Zidane as the face of the Adidas men’s body care range and is continuing an overhaul of its Adidas business.

Playboy women’s scents were unveiled earlier this month, at about the same time as Hugh Hefner told Playboy Enterprises Inc.’s board he wanted to take the firm private with a roughly $185 million bid. Hefner’s news prompted FriendFinder Networks Inc., which owns Penthouse magazine, to make a $210 million counter offer for PEI.

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As the plot for control of PEI plays out, the Playboy women’s eaux de toilette will be launched in Europe in September and roll out in January to the rest of the brand’s 75 markets, including the U.S., Canada, Latin America, Asia, Australia and the Middle East.

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Despite Playboy’s overall standing as an American brand, the fragrance business, which was launched two years ago with the introduction of four men’s scents, is not as strong in the U.S. as it is in its biggest markets of Germany and Eastern Europe, according to Coty executives.

“The old perspective on Playboy is in the U.S., and has stood still, not [advanced] like the global business has,” said Bernd Beetz, chief executive officer of Coty Inc. “It’ll take a while before the U.S. sees the potential of the brand.”

Jürgen Scharfenstein, senior vice president of marketing for lifestyle fragrances at Coty Beauty, noted that, “We had at the start some reluctance from American retailers about the brand — the link between Playboy historically and sex. We hoped this would fade away and it’s going in the right direction.” Playboy scents are carried at roughly 15,000 doors in the U.S.

Nonetheless, “The positive impact on the [Playboy] brand has been tremendous,” Alex Vaickus, president of Playboy Enterprises Inc., said of the fragrance business. “The partnership with Coty is one of our strongest — if not the strongest — licenses.”

Scharfenstein noted Adidas’ home market, Germany, is the brand’s biggest. “The U.S. is large,” said Scharfenstein, “but not as successful as European markets — France, the U.K., Poland.”

He said he believes the Playboy fragrance brand could eventually rival in size the Adidas business, which comprises some 250 core items.

The executives wouldn’t talk numbers, but industry sources estimate the Adidas business — for which more than 200 million units are produced a year, making it the largest brand in the portfolio — generates total sales upward of $400 million. Total revenues of Playboy fragrances are estimated to have so far exceeded $80 million.

“Historically, the Playboy brand — in terms of the magazine and the digital business — has primarily been a men’s brand,” said Vaickus, who added, “Within our consumer licensing business, the target is a young trendy man and woman. We currently have well over 100 licenses in place [globally] and 70 percent of the products purchased are purchased by females. We think [the feminine scents] will do just as well for us as the men’s.”

“There is a big appeal that Playboy has to female consumers,” said Beetz. “[That] will be the platform for our launch in the female area. We’re going to put a lot of effort behind it and make it really big. There is tremendous potential.”

Vaickus went on to say that “The Girls Next Door” and spin-offs have yielded success in attracting a younger female demographic. “Over the last five to 10 years, the licensing business has been based on a new demographic,” he said, adding that, after a relaunch of the Playboy licensing business several years ago, the firm entered women’s apparel; accessories like bags, shoes and jewelry, and lingerie.

The Playboy fragrances, he said, have “opened up a whole new consumer for us, a broader audience.”

While associating women’s scents with a sexed-up men’s lifestyle brand may seem like a paradox, Scharfenstein said, “I don’t think it’s so much related to Hugh Hefner. It’s about the brand in itself, its playfulness.

“Consumers [are not] buying the fragrances because they read the magazine or look at what’s happening in the mansion,” he contended, adding the women’s marketing campaign will be “far away” from the story of Hefner.

“The addition of fragrance is a natural extension to where we’ve already been,” Vaickus remarked.

Along with the launch of the Playboy women’s scents, called Play It Lovely, Play It Sexy and Play It Spicy, Coty will introduce a men’s scent, an edt called Playboy New York.

Play It Lovely, a fresh fruity floral, and Play It Spicy, a sparkling floriental, were composed by Givaudan, while Play It Sexy, a “sexy” oriental, was blended by Firmenich.

Play It Lovely mixes top notes of citrus, blackberry and juicy pear with a heart of cherry baby orchid, belle de nuit and tuberose, and a drydown of amber, patchouli and tonka bean. Play It Sexy combines opening notes of pink grapefruit, mandarin and pink pepper with middle notes of jasmine tea, osmanthus and licorice, and base notes of vanilla, patchouli, sandalwood and tonka bean. Play It Spicy has top notes of pomegranate, bellini cocktail and pink berries; heart notes of tiger lily, passionflower and heliotrope, and bottom notes of amber, sandalwood and vanilla.

Each edt will come in 30-, 50- and 75-ml. sizes for 11.99 euros, or $15.68 at current exchange, 14.99 euros, or $19.60, and 17.99 euros, or $23.53, respectively. A 150-ml. body spray will be available for 3.99 euros, or $5.22. Prices are for Europe.

Playboy New York, the men’s scent, was blended by International Flavors & Fragrances and fuses aldehydes, limes and vinyl accords at its top; green apple, elemi and black pepper at its heart, and vetiver, tonka bean and vanilla at its base. Currently launching in Europe and slated to reach the U.S. in January, the 50-ml. bottle will be priced at $16 in America.

Advertising plans call for the fragrances to be backed by three TV spots and a campaign will also be aired for Playboy New York, commercials directed by Norman Buckley. Additionally, print ads lensed by Terry Tsiolis will support the scents. The effort is to commence in Europe in September.

Of the two-year Zidane campaign, which will kick off in September and encompass two TV spots, print and outdoor advertising for edts, shower gel and deodorant, Beetz said, “I’m expecting this to have a major impact on our business. He’s a huge athlete.”

Scharfenstein added, “Zinédine still has huge awareness and credibility, he’s still internationally very well recognized.”

In 2005, Coty signed a licensing agreement with Zidane to be the first global spokesman for Adidas beauty, as the face of Adidas Active Skincare for Men and Adidas’ antiperspirants for men.

“It’s a continuation of our collaboration with him,” Beetz said of the current deal with Zidane.

“We are for many young boys [and] teenagers the first body spray they use here in Europe,” Scharfenstein said, noting, “A large part of our business comes from adults. Zidane has the strength to resonate with both audiences.”

The launch of the Zidane campaign, whose TV spots were directed by Paul Hunter and print ads photographed by Stefan Ruiz, will coincide with the relaunch of Adidas edts, aftershaves, body sprays and shower gels, an initiative that includes new packaging and reformulations.

“I think he’s going to strengthen the athlete character of the brand, which is our key positioning, because we develop all of our products with athletes,” Beetz said of Zidane.

Scharfenstein noted that, “In the past six months and upcoming six months, we [will have] relaunched 70 percent of our Adidas business. What you have for the consumer is a comprehensive offer [with] one voice.”

The firm will also launch a scent called Adidas Pure Game in August. The edt, composed by Firmenich, has top notes of basil, pepper, grapefruit and mandarin; a heart of lavender, gaicawood and cypress, and base notes of tonka, incense, tamboti and patchouli. The 100-ml. scent, which ranges in price from $15 to $18, will be accompanied by an aftershave ($10 to $15) and shower gel and deodorants ($3.50).

About 20 percent of the Adidas business is women’s and “it’s growing,” said Scharfenstein. The target is young women involved with sports and fitness.

Noting that Adidas and Playboy are playing in not only the fragrance market but also in the body spray and hair and body wash category, Scharfenstein said, “Two big international brand names have helped us secure a much stronger position in front of the retailer. We’ll continue to push both brands together to make an offering that is very distinctive from the brands in our category, for instance Axe/Lynx [and] Nivea.”