A Brand Under Attack: The Boycott of Stoli Vodka and the Power of Social Media Net Present Value (NPV) / MBA Resources

Introduction to Net Present Value (NPV) - What is Net Present Value (NPV) ? How it impacts financial decisions regarding project management?

NPV solution for A Brand Under Attack: The Boycott of Stoli Vodka and the Power of Social Media case study

At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. A Brand Under Attack: The Boycott of Stoli Vodka and the Power of Social Media case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by Grishma Shah, Janet L. Rovenpor, Musa Jafar. The A Brand Under Attack: The Boycott of Stoli Vodka and the Power of Social Media (referred as “Stoli Esposito” from here on) case study provides evaluation & decision scenario in field of Leadership & Managing People. It also touches upon business topics such as - Value proposition, Crisis management, Government, Social platforms.

The net present value (NPV) of an investment proposal is the present value of the proposal’s net cash flows less the proposal’s initial cash outflow. If a project’s NPV is greater than or equal to zero, the project should be accepted.

NPV = Present Value of Future Cash Flows LESS Project’s Initial Investment

Case Description of A Brand Under Attack: The Boycott of Stoli Vodka and the Power of Social Media Case Study

On a bright July morning in 2013, the incoming President of the Stoli Group USA, John Esposito, was alarmed to learn that one of his company's most popular products was being bombarded by heavy criticism from social media. The hashtag, #DUMPSTOLI, coined by Dan Savage, a prominent gay rights blogger, had gone viral overnight. Savage claimed that Stoli Vodka, because of its Russian heritage, should be subjected to an outright boycott, along with all other Russian-made products. In Savage's view, it was important to launch a vocal protest and to show solidarity with the gay community in the aftermath of a series of discriminatory laws that were passed by the Russian government under the direction of Vladmir Putin. Esposito was well aware of Stoli's historical support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community and more importantly, he knew that the brand had no influence on, or relationship with the Putin government. In fact, both the owner and top executives at SPI Group, the parent company of Stoli Group USA, had progressively adversarial relationships with the Putin government for over 10 years. Nonetheless, the #DUMPSTOLI hashtag had gained followers and bars across the country began to ban Stoli vodka. Esposito hurried over to the office of Lori Tieszen, Stoli's senior vice president and chief marketing officer. He put her in charge of a team effort responsible for coming up with a response and protecting their iconic brand from the boycott. What should they do?

Case Authors : Grishma Shah, Janet L. Rovenpor, Musa Jafar

Topic : Leadership & Managing People

Related Areas : Crisis management, Government, Social platforms

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for A Brand Under Attack: The Boycott of Stoli Vodka and the Power of Social Media Case Study

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10026914) -10026914 - -
Year 1 3467560 -6559354 3467560 0.9434 3271283
Year 2 3962690 -2596664 7430250 0.89 3526780
Year 3 3961766 1365102 11392016 0.8396 3326375
Year 4 3240038 4605140 14632054 0.7921 2566414
TOTAL 14632054 12690852

The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2663938

In isolation the NPV number doesn't mean much but put in right context then it is one of the best method to evaluate project returns. In this article we will cover -

Different methods of capital budgeting

What is NPV & Formula of NPV,
How it is calculated,
How to use NPV number for project evaluation, and
Scenario Planning given risks and management priorities.

Capital Budgeting Approaches

Methods of Capital Budgeting

There are four types of capital budgeting techniques that are widely used in the corporate world –

1. Profitability Index
2. Payback Period
3. Net Present Value
4. Internal Rate of Return

Apart from the Payback period method which is an additive method, rest of the methods are based on Discounted Cash Flow technique. Even though cash flow can be calculated based on the nature of the project, for the simplicity of the article we are assuming that all the expected cash flows are realized at the end of the year.

Discounted Cash Flow approaches provide a more objective basis for evaluating and selecting investment projects. They take into consideration both –

1. Timing of the expected cash flows – stockholders of Stoli Esposito have higher preference for cash returns over 4-5 years rather than 10-15 years given the nature of the volatility in the industry.
2. Magnitude of both incoming and outgoing cash flows – Projects can be capital intensive, time intensive, or both. Stoli Esposito shareholders have preference for diversified projects investment rather than prospective high income from a single capital intensive project.

Formula and Steps to Calculate Net Present Value (NPV) of A Brand Under Attack: The Boycott of Stoli Vodka and the Power of Social Media

NPV = Net Cash In Flowt1 / (1+r)t1 + Net Cash In Flowt2 / (1+r)t2 + … Net Cash In Flowtn / (1+r)tn
Less Net Cash Out Flowt0 / (1+r)t0

Where t = time period, in this case year 1, year 2 and so on.
r = discount rate or return that could be earned using other safe proposition such as fixed deposit or treasury bond rate. Net Cash In Flow – What the firm will get each year.
Net Cash Out Flow – What the firm needs to invest initially in the project.

Step 1 – Understand the nature of the project and calculate cash flow for each year.
Step 2 – Discount those cash flow based on the discount rate.
Step 3 – Add all the discounted cash flow.
Step 4 – Selection of the project

Why Leadership & Managing People Managers need to know Financial Tools such as Net Present Value (NPV)?

In our daily workplace we often come across people and colleagues who are just focused on their core competency and targets they have to deliver. For example marketing managers at Stoli Esposito often design programs whose objective is to drive brand awareness and customer reach. But how that 30 point increase in brand awareness or 10 point increase in customer touch points will result into shareholders’ value is not specified.

To overcome such scenarios managers at Stoli Esposito needs to not only know the financial aspect of project management but also needs to have tools to integrate them into part of the project development and monitoring plan.

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 15%

After working through various assumptions we reached a conclusion that risk is far higher than 6%. In a reasonably stable industry with weak competition - 15% discount rate can be a good benchmark.

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 15 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10026914) -10026914 - -
Year 1 3467560 -6559354 3467560 0.8696 3015270
Year 2 3962690 -2596664 7430250 0.7561 2996363
Year 3 3961766 1365102 11392016 0.6575 2604925
Year 4 3240038 4605140 14632054 0.5718 1852502
TOTAL 10469060

The Net NPV after 4 years is 442146

(10469060 - 10026914 )

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 20%

If the risk component is high in the industry then we should go for a higher hurdle rate / discount rate of 20%.

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 20 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10026914) -10026914 - -
Year 1 3467560 -6559354 3467560 0.8333 2889633
Year 2 3962690 -2596664 7430250 0.6944 2751868
Year 3 3961766 1365102 11392016 0.5787 2292689
Year 4 3240038 4605140 14632054 0.4823 1562518
TOTAL 9496708

The Net NPV after 4 years is -530206

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9496708 - 10026914 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of Stoli Esposito to discount cash flow at lower discount rates such as 15%.

Acceptance Criteria of a Project based on NPV

Simplest Approach – If the investment project of Stoli Esposito has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at Stoli Esposito can ACCEPT the project, otherwise they can reject the project. This means that project will deliver higher returns over the period of time than any alternate investment strategy.

In theory if the required rate of return or discount rate is chosen correctly by finance managers at Stoli Esposito, then the stock price of the Stoli Esposito should change by same amount of the NPV. In real world we know that share price also reflects various other factors that can be related to both macro and micro environment.

In the same vein – accepting the project with zero NPV should result in stagnant share price. Finance managers use discount rates as a measure of risk components in the project execution process.

Sensitivity Analysis

Project selection is often a far more complex decision than just choosing it based on the NPV number. Finance managers at Stoli Esposito should conduct a sensitivity analysis to better understand not only the inherent risk of the projects but also how those risks can be either factored in or mitigated during the project execution. Sensitivity analysis helps in –

What can impact the cash flow of the project.

Understanding of risks involved in the project.

What are the uncertainties surrounding the project Initial Cash Outlay (ICO’s). ICO’s often have several different components such as land, machinery, building, and other equipment.

What are the key aspects of the projects that need to be monitored, refined, and retuned for continuous delivery of projected cash flows.

What will be a multi year spillover effect of various taxation regulations.

Some of the assumptions while using the Discounted Cash Flow Methods –

Projects are assumed to be Mutually Exclusive – This is seldom the came in modern day giant organizations where projects are often inter-related and rejecting a project solely based on NPV can result in sunk cost from a related project.

Independent projects have independent cash flows – As explained in the marketing project – though the project may look independent but in reality it is not as the brand awareness project can be closely associated with the spending on sales promotions and product specific advertising.

References & Further Readings

Grishma Shah, Janet L. Rovenpor, Musa Jafar (2018), "A Brand Under Attack: The Boycott of Stoli Vodka and the Power of Social Media Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.