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    Medvedevka could rival Putinka in vodka sales

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    The emergence of Dmitry Medvedev as a front-runner in Russia's 2008 presidential polls has seen an avalanche of patent applications for alcohol products featuring his name, a Russian daily said on Friday.

    MOSCOW, December 14 (RIA Novosti) - The emergence of Dmitry Medvedev as a front-runner in Russia's 2008 presidential polls has seen an avalanche of patent applications for alcohol products featuring his name, a Russian daily said on Friday.

    First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was nominated on Monday by the ruling United Russia party as a presidential candidate, and his candidacy was later backed by President Vladimir Putin. Given Putin's popularity and support of most of the legislature, his endorsement of his longtime ally is likely to guarantee Medvedev the presidency.

    The Kauffman distillery applied - two days after his nomination - to register the vodka 'Volodya I Medvedi,' or 'Volodya and the Bears', an apparent reference to the diminutive version of Putin's first name and Medvedev's surname, which comes from the Russian world 'medved' meaning 'bear,' the respected business paper Vedomosti said.

    The paper also said that Kauffman was not the first distillery to apply to launch vodka brands featuring the politician's surname, adding that another company had requested permission to register the brands 'Tsar Medved', or 'Tsar Bear', and 'Medvedevka.'

    Vedomosti said some far-sighted beverage distributors had already staked their bets on Medvedev two years ago when he was appointed first deputy prime minister. The Medvedevka name, it reported, was initially registered by Marisa-torg, and subsequently sold on several times to other distributors. It is currently owned by a leading Russian distillery, Kristall.

    A Kristall top official refused to say whether or not the company would produce vodka under the name.

    Yevgeny Boichenko, head of the MBA marketing program at the Moscow International Higher Business School MIRBIS, told the newspaper that any reference to well-known politicians promises greater revenues for a range of products, but especially alcohol.

    'Putinka' vodka was launched in late 2003, three years after Putin came to power, and gained 2.7% of the market within a year. In 2006, the product accounted for 4.4% of the Russian alcohol market, which was estimated at $15 billion, Vedomosti reported.

    "As long as Russia toys with the idea of a good tsar, using presidents' names [for product names] will be an advantage," BrandLab managing director, Alexander Yeryomenko, told the paper.

    However, the analyst said Putin would remain a strong political figure after he steps down as president, and that 'Putinka' could sell better than 'Medvedevka'.

    Medvedev's press secretary, Zhanna Odintsova, could not comment on the first deputy premier's attitude to the use of his name on vodka bottles.

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