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Ahoy! Captain Morgan

After Smirnoff Green Twist and Smirnoff Black No. 55, the latest Diageo offering is Captain Morgan - a premium spiced rum.

Apr 17, 2007, 11.32 PM IST
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No other spirit has the romantic, notorious associations that rum has — a drink made popular by sailors and pirates, on long voyages where potable water was hard to come by. So it’s not surprising that there are rum brands across the globe that have achieved cult status —Old Monk in India and Bundaberg Rum in Australia, for example. But when it comes to global domination, they’re not the biggest brands. Top of mind and top of market, are Diageo’s Captain Morgan, and Bacardi Group’s Bacardi.

While Bacardi’s white rum has been a success in India, it hasn’t made much of an impact on the dark rum market where Old Monk and UB’s Celebration still rule. That doesn’t deter Diageo, which has great expectations for the newly launched Captain Morgan dark rum. Joey Bergstein, senior VP, Diageo Rums believes that the brand will have a winning edge: “Bacardi’s a bat!

They miss out on not having an iconic character,” which the Captain, he explains, is. “He has an image of this lovable rogue, whom women like to hang out with,” explains Bergstein. “Bacardi is a hard-core partying brand while Captain Morgan is more about relaxing and having a good time.”

It is his first visit to the country, but he definitely knows this market well: “India has a lot of rum drinkers and the spices present in Captain Morgan will introduce them to a unique flavour they have never tasted before.” He is quite enthusiastic while discussing the brand and what it stands for.

Commenting on the marketing activities, Bergstein says, “Our main focus will be on-premise activity.” Diageo will have men dressed like Captain Morgan coming into bars carrying a treasure chest and spend 20 minutes in each bar. People present in the bar will be given keys to the chest and those who manage to get the right key, will be awarded Captain Morgan merchandise. Elaborating on this activity, Bergstein says, “The energy level in the bar before the Captain comes in and when he leaves is very different.

He manages to charge up the crowd completely, his mischievous nature just adds to the whole experience.” Besides on-premise activity, Diageo also has print, outdoor and TV campaigns lined up, and even promotional CDs and cassettes. Grey Worldwide will handle the creative duties for the brand in India.

Before taking on rums, Bergstein was senior vice president at Diageo, responsible for its ready-to-drink products and has led the category back to growth around the world. He began his career with P&G where he held various marketing leadership roles and worked on brands like L’Oreal, Pantene and Sunny Delight.

So what is the difference between FMCG and liquor marketing? “Both are great industries to be associated with. But the difference is that the consumer goods market is very consistent, while this one is highly volatile,” says Bergstein. But given his wide experience in dealing with challenges, volatility hardly seems to be a concern.

Bergstein acknowledges Old Monk to be a major contender, “It is definitely competition given its costing and availability, it also has great packaging. But in India, the competition is more often from vodka. With Captain Morgan we want Indians to be introduced to premium tasting rum and hope to make it the second biggest drink after vodka,” explains Bergstein. He also says that more than products, it’s the places that Captain Morgan will available in that is a challenge. Besides Captain Morgan, Diageo’s rum profile includes Venezuelean rums Pampero and Cacique. Though there are no plans of bringing in these two right now, it cannot be ruled out.

Captain Morgan was launched in Mumbai on March 29 and will rollout in different phases across the country through April. Diageo has set very aggressive targets for the brand, but Bergstein refuses to give any figures, Captain Morgan is currently priced at Rs 550 for a 750 ml bottle and is clearly targeted at the premium end of the market. The brand first entered the international market in 1944 with Seagram and has come a long-way since.

Diageo acquired it in December 2001 and since then it has grown to be the number three spirit by volume in the US and number seven worldwide. Bergstein outlines his vision for the brand: “We would like Captain Morgan to figure in the list of brands that every customer across the globe wants. It’s a very prestigious list and includes brands like Nike, Apple, etc. that is where we want Captain Morgan to be.”
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