The Kraken rum hires Eleven as AOR after ‘creative sprint’
San Francisco-based creative agency Eleven has reeled in The Kraken, a fast-growing rum brand that has been upping its marketing investments.
Eleven assumes agency-of-record status for the brand, which had been using a variety of agencies. Kraken is owned by Proximo Spirits, whose liquor portfolio also includes Jose Cuervo, 1800 Tequila and Three Olives vodka.
The Kraken ranks as the sixth-largest rum in the U.S. by in-store sales, but it has been gaining ground, according to IRI. Dollar sales in stores jumped 23% in the year ending Jan. 24 to $17.4 million, although it still commands less than 3% rum market share—far below top brands Captain Morgan (33%) and Bacardi (28%), according to IRI.
But Proximo has been pouring more marketing support behind Kraken as it seeks to keep the momentum growing, including inking a new National Hockey League sponsorship.
“They see the opportunity for this 10-year-old rum to really become so much bigger than it is right now,” says Michele Sileo, a partner and managing director at Eleven.
The myth of the brand’s namesake—a multi-tentacled kraken sea monster—has been around for centuries. Wired, which documents some of the lore in this post, describes it as “many beasts in one, a perfectly terrifying amalgamation of the worst sea monsters humanity has ever dreamed up.”
The rum brand’s mythical origin story involves a kraken attacking a ship carrying rum from the Caribbean. “All of the barrels of rum were destroyed except one, which was badly stained by the squid’s black ink. It was dubbed “The Kraken Rum,” according to the brand tale posted on its web site.
Eleven is working on a campaign set to break in the spring, according to Sileo. While it will not toss the sea creature overboard, the agency is charged with growing the brand’s reputation beyond that myth, focusing on the rum itself.
The Kraken has “a cult following,” says Eleven Creative Director Matt Wakeman. “We don’t want to neglect that die-hard, core audience.”
He adds: “The Kraken itself works really hard for them—it’s so eye-catching on labels and point-of-sale. So, we are not neglecting that. It’s just they haven't had a lot of focus on the rum itself … and really building a universe around it.”
The agency won the business after convincing the brand to engage in what Sileo describes as a “two-week sprint.” This meant Eleven worked intensely on the brand for that period, rather than competing in multiple rounds of pitching against other shops like what happens with traditional reviews that tend to drag on for many months.
“I can’t say that we do this on a regular basis. We actually don’t,” Sileo says of the expedited process. “I think it just felt like an opportunity to bring up an idea like that to this particular client who had an interest in being in-market pretty quickly.”
She adds: “The benefits for them were, in an RFP process it does take longer—you don’t have that back-and-forth and immersion with the team to really see how you might work together.”
Lander Otegui, senior-VP marketing for Proximo Spirits, in a statement to Ad Age said the “condensed and intense timeline” allowed for “complete focus on the challenge at hand across both teams and ultimately led to stronger and more comprehensive output. Often in traditional RFPs, you are kept in the dark until the end reveal with limited check-ins which is not how the agency/brand relationship works in the day-to-day business.”
The agency hiring comes as The Kraken prepares marketing around its new sponsorship of a new National Hockey League expansion franchise in Seattle that shares its name. The Seattle Kraken begin play in the 2021-22 season. As part of the deal, which was announced in July, the brand began promoting an official team cocktail— the "Kraken On Ice," which is as simple as it sounds: the rum poured into a rocks glass over a rocks ice cube.