Bacardi Brings Back Its Bat in New Campaign

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Scared of bats? In Cuba, the nocturnal creatures are actually a sign of good luck, according to Bacardi. That is especially true for the Cuban-born rum brand, whose founder Don Facundo Bacardí and his wife Amalia Moreau made the bat Bacardi's symbol back in the 1860s after noticing a colony of fruit bats nesting in his tin-roofed distillery in Santiago de Cuba, according to the brand.

The bat remains the brand's icon to this day -- and is about to get some new love in the rum's latest global ad campaign by BBDO New York called "We Are the Night." A TV spot features humans as the main characters. But the spot ends with some bats flying right at the viewer before Bacardi's bat icon appears prominently on screen.

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Bacardi will "use our icon in a much stronger way," said Mauricio Vergara, Bacardi's chief marketing officer for North America and the global lead for the Bacardi rum brand. In print and digital ads the bat will be "up and center," he added. And "there may be executions where you don't see people at all -- it's all about just having the statement that 'we are the night,' plus the bat."

The TV ad portrays what Bacardi refers to as "nighttime archetypes," representing how different people party. The labels include "glow gals," which symbolize social-media obsessed revelers; "midnight feasters," who crave late-night meals; and "last train sprinters" -- those people who stay out as late as possible and inevitably have to run down the last train home.

The director on the spot is Michel Gondry, whose movie credits include "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." The TV ad buy includes TBS, Spike, BET, BBC, as well as time during NBC's "The Tonight Show."

The archetypes are based on 15 different behavioral profiles that BBDO uncovered through research of consumers ages 25-to-34. "When people go out at night there are different personalities that flourish and come across and by looking at their (social media) feeds and language they use, that's how the idea came about," Mr. Vergara said.

On social media, the brand will feature vignettes of each archetype, such as this example below for glow gals. Bacardi is also creating a national sponsored Snapchat lens for Halloween.

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Bats are, of course, a perfect symbol for Halloween. But for Bacardi, the flying mammals are present all year long, with the so-called "Bat Device" logo appearing on every rum bottle. Bacardi has cycled through seven different versions of the bat design, with the latest one created in 2013 and inspired by hand-drawn designs from the early 1900s. Bats have a logical connection to molasses-based rum because they pollinate sugar cane crops and prey on harmful insects, as Bacardi describes on its website.

But in recent years, the bat took a backseat in Bacardi's advertising -- until now.

"We moved away from it because that is when Bacardi started to get a little bit more into only the beach and the tropical scene and we abandoned it for many years," Mr. Vergara said. "If we want to relate to the night, the the best way of doing it is using our icon," he added. "For many years it was so in front of us and we ignored it. So we are right now trying to go back to our roots and our iconography and use that in a distinctive and ownable way."

The business goal of the new campaign is to spur sales at bars. Bacardi plans to also keep running a campaign launched last year that targets grocery sales by spotlighting house parties.

Bacardi's Superior variety recorded $117.5 million in U.S. sales at stores in the 52 weeks ending Sept. 4, giving it 17.95% dollar share of the category, trailing only Diageo's Captain Morgan, according to IRI. While Bacardi sales slipped 0.2% in the period, Mr. Vergara said that represents an improvement.

"Bacardi, it's no secret to anyone, has declined over the last few years," he said. "This is the first year we are starting to see our business stabilize and almost flat. And our hope is to get the brand back into growth."

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