How Bacardi Plans to 'Dominate' Rum Once Again

New Campaign Plays Up House Parties and Modern Music, Plays Down Heritage

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Like many booze brands, Bacardi rum has spent a lot of its marketing money playing up its heritage in recent years. Ads told tales of how the 153-year-old brand survived Prohibition, its exile from Cuba and disasters like earthquakes, fire and war.

But in a sign that younger drinkers might be tiring of such stories, Bacardi is taking a sharp turn into the here and now with a new campaign that will be backed by a major media investment. The effort will retain the line, "Bacardi Untameable Since 1862." But a TV ad debuting Oct. 12 avoids the past entirely. Instead, the spot (above) features a mobile house party that trucks along scenic highways and byways with revelers inside.

The brand -- whose sales have slumped in recent years -- is projecting its bold new ambitions in a statement about the campaign scheduled to be released today that declares Bacardi wants to "dominate the category once again."

While Bacardi is still the top U.S. rum by volume market share, sales have been sagging. The brand's share fell to 34.3% last year from 35.4% in 2013, according to Euromonitor International. That is off the recent peak share of 39.7% in 2005, according to Euromonitor. The No. 2 U.S. rum brand, Diageo's Captain Morgan, has also lost share in recent years as smaller brands gain ground.

Bacardi's new approach will "go harder at embedding our brands back into culture," Mauricio Vergara, Bacardi Limited's chief marketing officer for North America and the global lead for the Bacardi brand, said in an interview. "We have one of the most iconic brands in the industry, but over the last few years we were not really connecting as effectively as we could with our target consumers and the new millennial."

The campaign -- which will launch first in the U.S. and go global next year -- marks the debut effort for Bacardi by BBDO Worldwide and OMD Worldwide. The Omnicom shops in early 2015 won creative and media duties, respectively, for Bacardi Limited's major brands, which include the rum as well as Grey Goose, Martini and Bombay Sapphire. Bermuda-based Bacardi Limited has also made significant internal changes that included naming Mr. Vergara to the CMO job in June. His promotion came after the company eliminated the global CMO role in favor of splitting the duties between two executives, in North America and Europe.

Mr. Vergara said the Bacardi brand will not entirely abandon its heritage approach, which has paid tribute to the survival skills of the founding Bacardi family. But the historical nods will be more targeted, he said. "It cannot be the only message," he said. "That cannot be what we build a brand on." He added: "The idea has to be something that resonates with the consumer and they can relate to."

The first ad seeks to link Bacardi to house parties, while future ads will target bar occasions, Mr. Vergara said. Beginning Oct. 31, Bacardi will start an east coast "House Party Tour" that will involve bringing a mobile house to Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Miami. The brand plans to collect content from the invitation-only parties that it will spread widely on social media.

A tagline in the TV spot, "There's Nothing in the Way" is described in the statement as a "tribute to the brand's history and irrepressible spirit" but also a "shout out to those who are busting through and overcoming obstacles in the real world."

The campaign includes a partnership with Vice Media for sponsored content that will spotlight the "passion projects" of several musicians. Hip-hop duo Run the Jewels will be featured alongside a new music app, for instance. Bacardi also plans to put content on Facebook's new mobile ad format. Ads using the format are initially displayed in a news feed but once clicked take viewers to a web page-like screen that can include videos, photo carousels and interactive images. Bacardi, which called the feature an "immersive canvas," is the first alcohol brand to use the format, according to the brand.

Mr. Vergara declined to reveal total spending on the campaign but said the investment would be "way, way above what we have done in previous years." One goal, he said, is to make Bacardi more of a lifestyle brand by using an "always-on" media approach, rather than singularly targeting the peak rum seasons of the summer and winter holidays.

The first ad will run on programming including ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live," ESPN's "Sportscenter" and FX's "American Horror Story: Hotel," while online buys include Pandora, Hulu, YouTube and ESPN. Last year, Bacardi spent $42 million in measured media on the brand in the U.S., according to Kantar Media.

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