Inside Campari’s Fantastical Pin-Up Calendar

Campari's annual calendar has arrived Stateside, giving Americans a taste of the superstar-fueled affair that's become a major event in Milan since 2000. Talia Baiocchi on the calendar campaign, its stars—from Uma Thurman to Benicio del Toro to Eva Mendes—and its place in Campari's century-long conversation with the art, fashion and entertainment worlds.

Salma Hayek smuggles a bottle into 2007's "Hotel Campari" (left). Hayek lies on floor with recumbent suitors (right).
Photo: Mario Testino

Eva Mendes, as Little Red Riding Hood, holds a chained, growling wolf in 2008's "Campari Tales."
Photo: Marino Parisotto

Mendes, as Aladdin, beckons a Campari genie.
Photo: Marino Parisotto

Jessica Alba sits poolside surrounded by shirtless men in 2009's "Club Campari" (left). Alba reclines on wicker chair holding Campari bottle (right).
Photo: Mario Testino

Olga Kurylenko looks on while holding an Americano as two men arm wrestle alongside in 2010's "Campari Milano."
Photo: Simone Nervi

Kurylenko hitches a ride in an elevator.
Photo: Simone Nervi

Benicio Del Toro, in 2011's "The Red Affair," being … Benicio Del Toro.
Photo: Michel Comte

Del Toro presumably considering aforementioned Red Affair.
Photo: Michel Comte

Milla Jovovich embodies global warming (left) and a tsunami (right) in 2012's "It's the End of the World, Baby!"
Photo: Dimitri Daniloff

Penelope Cruz, shattering mirrors in 2013's "Kiss Superstition Goodbye" (left). Cruz defying the odds (right).
Photo: Kristian Schuller

Uma Thurman mounts enormous rocking horse (left) and charms carnival-goers (right) in 2014's "Worldwide Celebration."
Photo: Koto Bolofo

In 2015's "Mythology Mixology," Eva Green goes bowling (left) and spins a prize wheel (right).
Photo: Julia Fullerton-Batten

2016-Campari-Celebrity-Drinks-Calendar-Penelope-Cruz-Salma-Hayek-Eva-Mendes-Jessica-Alba-Milla-Jovovich-Benicio-Del-Toro

Kate Hudson on the campaign trail in 2016's "BitterSweet Campaign" (left). Hudson toasts to Campari (right).
Photo: Michelangelo di Battista

Picture Eva Mendes dressed as a mermaid, drinking a Negroni, while bare-chested men fawn at her tail. Or Penelope Cruz astride an iron anvil, blacksmithing a smoldering horseshoe while pondering a chilled bottle of Campari. Or Eva Green, as a red jump-suited astronaut, sipping a bitter Martini on the moon. No, this is not the stuff of bizarre dreams. Welcome to the wildly fantastical world of the Campari pin-up calendar.

Last month, Campari Gruppo unveiled their annual calendar campaign—a yearly affair in Italy since 2000—in the U.S. and the U.K. for the first time, a decision meant to symbolize the growth of Campari not just as an Italian icon, but an international brand.

The calendar, which is only released to 9,999 friends and family of Campari and not available for sale, is meant as a statement of continuity for the brand, whose marketing history has been predicated on an open conversation with the art, fashion and entertainment worlds for more than a century.

“[It] goes hand in hand with Campari’s tradition of artistic communication,” wrote Julka Villa, the Global Senior Director for Campari Gruppo’s Italian brands, in an email.

The 2016 “BitterSweet Campaign” calendar, headlined by Kate Hudson, who plays Campari’s dueling identities of “bitter” and “sweet,” is a mashup of midcentury glamour and modern gloss—an explosion of wiggle dresses and deferential, well-dressed males. It’s part of a more recent lineage of calendar releases—featuring everyone from Salma Hayek to Benicio del Toro—that have leaned more on a sort of cinematic realism, placing the stars in clothing and sets that funnel modernity through a filter of timeless glamour. For example, in 2013’s “Campari Hotel,” Salma Hayek wades through a swimming pool in a black plunge-neck one-piece, bottle of Campari in one hand, glass in the other, while a shirtless man clasps many, many diamonds on her neck. While in 2015’s “The Talent,” Eva Green sits atop a white horse in a Campari-red riding jacket, wind in her hair.

You get the idea.

Some of the older calendars taken greater liberties with the themes, creating fantastical, uber-modern worlds that reflect the continuum of daring, and slightly cheeky ad campaigns that have become synonymous with Campari, from Leonetto Cappiello’s famous 1921 ad featuring a jester climbing out of an orange peel to Fortunato Depero’s Futurist-era prints to Franz Marangolo’s 1960s ad featuring the Camparisoda bottle (which, incidentally, was designed by Depero) with long legs and heels, jaunting across a lime green backdrop.

Take 2008’s calendar, “Campari Tales,” featuring Eva Mendes embodying sexy versions of classic fairy tale characters, shot in a style that vaguely recalls both Jeff Koons’ “Made in Heaven” series and Kanye’s “Bound 2” video. In January, as Little Red Riding Hood, she holds a chain with a very large, growling wolf at the other end, while a surrealist fireplace burns in the background. While in July, she appears as Aladdin seated on a satin couch on a beach rubbing a bottle of Campari while the “genie”—i.e., a bare-chested stud holding two Campari-filled glasses—billows out of said bottle. And then there’s 2012’s “End of the World” calendar, perhaps the most chimerical of the series, which sees Milla Jovovich embodying a spectrum of dystopian disasters—from a tsunami wave, made from the blue satin of her gown (January), to a fiery, Campari-haired meteor shower (October).

The effect goes far beyond the average advertisement or branding material, becoming a something of dreamworld reinvented each year. So, for those who may never encounter a nearly life-size image of a blindfolded Eva Green mixing up a Negroni Sbagliato, here is a taste of the Campari calendar, past and present.

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Talia Baiocchi is the Editor in Chief of PUNCH and the author of the James Beard Award-nominated Sherry (Ten Speed Press) and co-author of the forthcoming Spritz (Ten Speed Press, March 2016). She has written for The San Francisco Chronicle, Saveur, Bon Appétit and Elle, among many others. She has a degree in journalism and political science from New York University and has been featured in numerous publications, including Forbes as a member of the magazine’s 2013 “30 under 30” list. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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