Captain Morgan seeks boost from Adam Devine as rum keeps falling

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Captain Morgan has added a celebrity endorser to its crew, tapping Adam Devine to star in ads and help create content. The rum brand is giving him the title of "chief party officer," following in the tradition of other brands that have in recent years dressed up their endorsement deals with fancy monikers.

Devine's role for the Diageo-owned brand will go beyond ad appearances."We are not just paying him to star in our commercials. He is collaborating with us on ideas and content," says Linda Bethea, VP of marketing for Captain Morgan in North America. The actor, known for his roles in the first two "Pitch Perfect" movies, will push the brand on social media and appear at events, she adds. He is also popping up in the brand's ongoing "Live Like a Captain" campaign in several 15-second TV spots that will get paid support on digital and TV. (See the extended 30-second cut above.) Anomaly is the brand's lead creative agency.

Rum could use a kick. The category's sales have been stuck in reverse as whiskey and tequila continue to surge. Captain Morgan's sales fell 1.6 percent to $220 million in the 52 weeks ending July 15, according to IRI, which does not track bar sales. Still, Captain Morgan kept its top spot in the category, ahead of Bacardi and Malibu.

Rum sales fell 1.3 percent to $625 million in the 52 weeks ending July 15, according to IRI, which does include bar sales. By contrast, whiskey shot up 5 percent to $2.4 billion and tequila surged 9.2 percent to $481 million.

"There's definitely been softness overall in the [rum] category but there's also been pockets of growth," Bethea says. "We've seen a lot of growth in flavored rum. And we've had a lot of success there with our shots portfolio." The brand's new offerings include Watermelon Smash, which is marketed to be taken as a chilled shot or mixed with club soda and lemon.

Diageo plans to boost media spending on Captain Morgan, although Bethea declined to say by how much. Diageo spent $15.4 million in measured media on Captain Morgan last year, according to the Ad Age Datacenter.

Captain Morgan debuted the "Live Like a Captain" campaign last year in an attempt to bring more levity to its advertising. Spots feature the brand's captain mascot greeting other "captains." The effort followed two previous campaigns with darker tones. "To Life, Love and Loot," which began in 2011, was set in the mid-1600's, offering a cinematic take on the real-life Captain Henry Morgan on which the mascot is based.

The campaign, which ran for several years, was followed by "Go Full Captain," whose bizarre music-video-style ads featured an illustrated overlay of the Captain's head on partygoers, including one spot in which a man sings a cover of "Freak Out" in Mandarin at a pirate boat party.

With "Live Like a Captain," the brand wanted to return to its roots of more whimsical marketing, and "really bring the fun back to the brand," Bethea says. Devine, she adds, is the "perfect spokesperson" because "he's cool, he's confident [and] he loves having fun with his crew."

The brand will seize on his social media following this week where Devine will share a video on Twitter and Instagram depicting a house party in South Carolina where he surprised a man celebrating his 30th birthday. The man, Tyler Tills of Charleston, is a big Devine fan. The brand found him via one of its production partners. "He truly was surprised by Adam. He had no idea Adam was showing up at his party," Bethea says.

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