Bacardi Begins $130 Million Media-Agency Review

Parent of Grey Goose, Bombay Sapphire and Bacardi Rum Currently Works with KSL Media

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Spirits giant Bacardi Limited has begun an agency review for its estimated $130 million media buying and planning, according to multiple industry executives.

Independent media shop KSL is the U.S. incumbent on the business and will participate in the review. There's a longstanding relationship between the agency and Bacardi Limited. In 2010, the marketer consolidated most of its U.S. brands with the agency. Prior to that, the shop had already handled media buying and planning for many of its large brands.

"We fully intend to defend and retain the account," said a KSL spokesman.

Bacardi Limited didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, while New York-based consultancy Ark Advisors -- which is overseeing the search process -- declined to comment.

Bacardi Limited's portfolio includes over 200 brands, including namesake Bacardi Rum, Bombay Sapphire Gin and Grey Goose Vodka. Between January and October of 2012, the company spent about $56 million on measured media in the U.S., according to Kantar Media. But in 2013, domestic annual spending -- including digital media duties -- are expected to rise to about $130 million, according to executives familiar with the matter.

It's the second major media pitch that's been launched in the first few weeks of 2013. Last week, Ad Age reported that Walgreens is reviewing its $240 million media account. Additional media reviews currently underway include Sony Playstation and Honda.

At Bacardi Limited, the move comes on the heels of a management shakeup. The company appointed Ed Shirley CEO in March. Mr. Shirley had most recently served as vice chairman of beauty and grooming for Procter & Gamble. Months later, the spirits giant announced the departure of Chief Marketing Officer Silvia Lagnado. When Ms. Lagnado left in November, the company said "a replacement will be announced in due course." The company has still not hired a CMO, but in January it brought on Procter & Gamble vet Eric Kraus in the newly created position of chief communications and corporate affairs officer.

Last year, the brand also launched an agency review for global creative duties for its flagship rum brand. The brand had been handled by WPP's Johannes Leonardo, New York.

Bacardi is the top rum brand in the world, but sales volume only grew 1.5% in 2011, according to a report by Drinks International and Euromonitor International, which measures sales of 9-litre cases. Diageo's Captain Morgan, by contrast, grew 2.2% and ranks fourth, trailing Tanduay (up 1.9%) and McDowell's No.1 Celebration (up 12.5%).

EJ Schultz contributed to this story.

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