Conigliaro delists Martini products in cycle spat

19th September, 2018 by Nicola Carruthers

Drinks expert Tony Conigliaro has hit out at Martini for “piggybacking” on his annual charity cycle ride Milano-Torino, accusing the vermouth brand of turning it into a “marketing ploy”.

The Milano-Torino cycling charity event was launched by Tony Conigliaro in 2016

The brainchild of 69 Colebrooke Row owner Conigliaro, the Bar Termini Milano-Torino bike ride took place for the first time in 2016 to raise money for the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity.

The following year, Conigliaro and Bacardi-owned vermouth brand Martini partnered for the event, which saw participants cycle 200 kilometres between two of Italy’s most iconic aperitivo cities in September.

In May this year, Martini announced the launch of a new cycling programme to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Martini Racing, called Martini Racing Cyclismo, which built on the success of the 2017 Milano-Torino event. The programme of cycling events aimed to promote health and fitness for bartenders.

This year’s event, La Classica 2018, took place last weekend (15-18 September) and saw bartenders cycle from Pavia to Pessione through the land of vermouth.

In an open letter to Martini this morning (19 September), Bar Termini proprietor Conigliaro claimed that Martini has “taken” his idea and turned it “into a marketing event”.

He wrote: “I believe we built on a unique event that showcases the best of what our industry can achieve when it sets its mind to something. The Milano-Torino bike ride has become a truly outstanding occasion.

“When I reached out to discuss the 2018 event, you informed me that you were simply taking my idea, staging it yourselves and turning it into a marketing event for Martini.”

Congliaro claimed Martini has “endangered the very character and fundamental essence and integrity of it”.

He said: “To add insult to injury and as a ‘gesture of respect’ for our ‘past partnership’ you graciously offered us ‘three spaces within this new programme’. It is clear that we have a very different definition of what respect is.”

He defined respect as “not appropriating an idea and passing it off as your own for your own corporate gain.”

Congliaro said: “Respect is not abusing a long-term partnership with a prestigious and well respected industry name and piggybacking on their creativity to hide your own glaring lack of imagination.”

“Respect is not using your undeniable muscle to try and frustrate our own attempts” to hold the event in 2018, he added.

“We will continue to organise and run the Bar Termini Milano-Torino in 2018 and beyond with our international friends and partners.

Conigliario will also “cease” to use Martini products in his London venues “in order to ensure that there is no confusion between our two brands”.

He wrote: “We have not taken these actions lightly or without considerable thought and we are very disappointed that this outcome has been necessary.

“If you are prepared to act in this way in relation to a large and prestigious UK partner and customer without even a second thought, how will you treat the smaller companies and individuals starting out and carving their own spot in the industry? We feel we have no option but to make a stand for all of us.”

To read brand owner Bacardi’s response, click here.

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