Absolut Angel Cheers Net Entrepreneurs With Prize Money

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Absolut Vodka, whose bottle is an advertising icon, now is eyeing the high-tech market through Absolut Angel, an online initiative aimed at encouraging entrepreneurs to develop concepts that blend art and technology.

Visitors to the site at www.absolutangel.com can submit venture ideas that are inspirational, commercial or educational. These concepts can extend to building communities online and creating awareness of the arts.

Up for grabs are two grants of $50,000 each from Seagram Americas, the U.S. importer, distributor and marketer of Sweden's Absolut Vodka.

Jim Schleifer, marketing director at Seagram Americas, said this program continues Absolut's support of art, fashion and design.

"It [also] helps us better reach our target audience by bringing this brand into contact with this segment in a nonintrusive way," Schleifer said. "Hopefully it will help continue to expand our image as a cutting-edge technology brand."

Absolut Vodka is the No. 1 imported premium vodka in the United States. It is flanked by sister brands such as Absolut Citron, Absolut Kurant, Absolut Peppar and Absolut Mandrin.

Candidates who submit entries in the current Absolut Angel profile are expected to mirror the market sought by the liquor brand: young, contemporary consumers who work in the art and technology fields.

Entries may be for ideas that are for-profit or nonprofit. Submissions will be judged on their uniqueness as an emerging concept, their creativity and how well the concepts benefit the arts.

The idea is expected to be financially sustainable. All submissions are due by Nov. 30. Four semifinalists will present their ideas to a review board in January. Judges then will award two prizes.

Judges include executives from MoneyHunt Properties Inc., Flatiron Partners, New York New Media Association, American Museum of Moving Images, BlackPlanet.com and Flooz.com.

Still, it is not all give and no take. The commercial message is buried online at absolutangel.com in the midst of such philanthropy.

"Now that we have your creative juices flowing a bit, it's time to contemplate what you might create with $50,000 in seed money. Why not have a cocktail party and talk it over with your friends?" says a page that is accessed by clicking on an Absolut Citron tab on the Absolut Angel site.

Four Absolut drinks are featured in this suggestion: Absolut Cosmopolitan, Absolut Appeal and Absolut Lemondrop -- all part of the Absolut Citron family. Running the cursor over these names yields the recipe for a proper drink.

Though Absolut still prefers print and out-of-home ads to publicize its brand, Seagram acknowledged that the Internet is a highly popular medium with its target audience.

"The challenge we face in using any medium is to keep our brand fresh and innovative, regardless of what medium we're using," Seagram's Schleifer said.

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