Vin & Sprit, the Swedish drinks group, has said that it is targeting China in an effort to expand upon Absolut's dominance as the premium vodka brand throughout the country's mainland.

The campaign, known as Absolut New Year, will include billboard, print advertisements and online advertising all specific for the mainland Chinese audience. It will also be the first time Absolut has created a web site specifically for a non-English speaking audience. The site aims to educate and inform visitors about the brand's heritage, and celebrate the Chinese New Year - the Year of the Rooster.

"Although Absolut is the leader in the Chinese premium vodka market, it remains unfamiliar to the vast majority of Chinese, who are used to local spirits and styles of drinking," a statement said today.

"Absolut is known and respected around the world for inspiring creativity, and this campaign aims to expand upon this heritage with an entirely new group of people." said Michael Persson, senior director marketing. "As with all campaigns, we undertake meticulous steps to ensure all efforts are relevant to the localized region, while staying true to the Absolut brand."

The launch coincides with the New Year festivities taking place February 9-23.

The theme of the campaign is 'fortune and blessing', a concept central to Chinese culture in the celebratory weeks of the New Year. The Chinese character ('fu') offers wishes of 'fortune, blessing and happiness'. When turned upside-down, the character symbolizes 'welcome', and is a common tradition for people to put this sign on their front door for the New Year.

Absolut New Year will include advertisements featuring an Absolut bottle emblazoned with the character, specially designed by famous calligrapher Tong Yang-Tse. The bottle will be used on rotating billboards and print ads, allowing it to be turned either direction to communicate both meanings.

The new Web site, located at http://www.absolutvodka.cn/, is written entirely in the simplified Chinese characters, which are standard on the Mainland.

"Estimates suggest that 80m Chinese have internet access, with this figure rapidly growing. For these people, many of whom are in an emerging Chinese middle class, http://www.absolutvodka.cn/ will be an enlightening window on the global approach to drinking and cocktails," the statement said.

Absolut is concentrating its efforts throughout Beijing, Shanghai and the Guangdong region, it said.

"Although some of China's more affluent consumers are familiar with Absolut from travelling abroad or studying and observing international brands, the main aim of the Absolut New Year campaign will be to educate the audience about the values and characteristics of the Absolut brand, but in a familiar and localised way," the statement said.