Instinctif Partners, up to 2014 known as College Group, is a Public Relations (PR) company based in the United Kingdom (UK), with a presence in Europe, the United States, the Middle East, and Africa.
The company has worked with the tobacco and e-cigarette industries.
Staff: Past & Present
- Brandon Mitchener, Brussels Managing Partner since December 2018.
- Almos Molnar, former Imperial Tobacco Corporate Affairs Manager.
Relationship with the Tobacco Industry
Helped Imperial Tobacco Set Up ‘Grassroot’ Opposition to European E-cigarette Regulations
Since 2018 Instinctif Partners has provided Imperial Tobacco with “monitoring and strategic advice on a number of issues but mainly related to vaping”. According to Instinctif’s entry on the EU Transparency Register, this contract was worth between €50,000 and €99,000 in 2018. Under Instinctif’s guidance, Imperial Tobacco paid €10,000 to fund an European Citizens Initiative called “Let’s demand smarter vaping regulations”, a petition that calls for the European Commission to repeal EU Tobacco Products Directive Article 20, which is concerned with the regulation of E-cigarettes. Instinctif’s Managing Partner Brandon Mitchener also revealed to Politico that the tobacco company was setting up a website to allow citizens to add their signature to the petition. The website, vapingisnottobacco.eu, was launched at the end of April 2019.
Sponsoring and organising otherwise disorganised citizens into visible ‘grassroot’ opposition to tobacco legislation is called Astroturfing and is a well-known tactic used by the tobacco industry, often hiding behind PR companies. Corporate watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory has condemned Imperial’s activities, stating that the tobacco company “has vested commercial interests in getting vaping products excluded from the Tobacco Products Directive and is abusing a democratic tool for citizenship participation”.
Other Tobacco Clients
- In 2014 the Instinctif Asia branch worked with British American Tobacco (BAT) Hong Kong to reportedly help enhance BAT’s work culture.
Worked with the E-cigarette Industry
In 2014 Instinctif Partners handled the PR of NJOY, an independent American e-cigarette company, which was taken to court over e-cigarette patent claims that same year by Fontem Ventures, a subsidiary of Imperial Tobacco. NJOY and Fontem Ventures settled in 2015. In September 2016 NJOY filed for bankruptcy.
- Instinctif Partners, History: Our Story, Instinctif Partners website, 2017, accessed March 2017
- Instinctif Partners, Brandon Mitchener joins as Brussels Managing Partner, 18 December 2018, accessed February 2018
- K. Jennings, Big Tobacco’s push for Big Vape, Politico, 26 February 2019, updated 27 February 2019, accessed February 2019
- EU Transparency Register, Instinctif Partners, last modified 25 February 2019, accessed February 2019
- The European Citizen’s Initiative, Title: Let’s demand smarter vaping regulation!, last updated 20 December 2018, accessed February 2019
- European Commission, European Citizens’ Initiative: Commission registers ‘Let’s demand smarter vaping regulation!’ initiative, 12 February 2019, accessed February 2019
- Vaping is Not Tobacco campaign website, accessed May 2019
- S. Ulucanlar, G.J. Fooks, A.B. Gilmore, The Policy Dystopia Model: An Interpretive Analysis of Tobacco Industry Political Activity, PLoS Med, 2016; 13(9): e1002125
- PRCA, Public Affairs Agency and In-House Register June – August 2016, PRCA website, accessed February 2019
- Instinctif Asia, Instinctif Partners was Awarded the PR Awards Hong Kong 2014, Instinctif Asia website, 11 December 2014, accessed March 2017
- G. Charles, Full steam ahead, PublicAffairs news, 4 April 2014, accessed March 2017
- Fontem Ventures, Fontem Ventures B.V. and NJOY Inc Announce Settlement Agreement in Relation to E-Vapour Technology Patents, 16 November 2015, accessed February 2019
- V. Sullivan, E-Cig Maker Said Failed Product Launch Led to Bankruptcy, 19 September 2016, accessed February 2019