Getting into the spirit
With a major national advertising campaign and PR set to take hold in the UK, does rum finally stand a fighting chance? Laura Clark finds out
Rum producers are fronting a
generic campaign in the UK as part of a €70 million European Union-funded programme to strengthen the
Launching under the umbrella of the Authentic Caribbean Rum Marque, it will include national advertising, trade and consumer PR and education
to raise rum 's profile in the UK. Participating producers will also mark their bottles with an internationally recognised stamp as a guarantee of origin and quality.
Without funding from the EU - which has allocated €21.7 million for distribution and marketing - it would have been impossible for the industry to raise the capital
needed to intensify the development and production of indigenous Caribbean brands.
The campaign has been designed to benefit
brands, such as Cockspur
and Appleton Estate, as well as smaller ones seeking to develop their brands in the UK. It has been welcomed by producers who see the investment as a means
of boosting sales in the UK.
"It will push the whole category forward," says David Smith, international brand director for Barbados-based Cockspur. "EU funding for the category is one of the reasons
rum is going to be quite prevalent in the next couple of years," he adds.
The West Indies Rum
& Spirits Producers Association
- the long-standing body which facilitates trade in West Indian rum - is responsible for implementation of the programme. In the UK it has appointed a marketing manager to generate consumer and trade awareness of the
and to give the category a stronger generic presence.
"EU support has been the catalyst to allow the industry to move forward. New life is being breathed into the industry," says WIRSPA chairman Patrick Mayers in a press release issued by a delegation of the European Commission in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. "There is a sense of optimism. Caribbean rum now has a fighting chance," he adds.
Exact details of the UK's generic campaign will not been revealed until a PR and marketing agency has been appointed. One industry figure told OLN
the funding is "politically sensitive" because it has come from the EU. "Many people are asking why the EU is paying to develop Caribbean rum,"
To be eligible for a grant, producers must make their rum exclusively from sugar cane
and it must be fermented and distilled in African, Caribbean and Pacific group nations , such as Antigua, Barbados, Guyana, St Lucia and Jamaica. The cost is shared between the EU and the beneficiary - who puts up a larger percentage of the funds - and the money is earmarked for specific projects, such as upgrading distillation and bottling facilities, investing in new equipment, building waste treatment plants and training staff.
According to the EC , more than 119 projects have been approved since the programme's
launch in 2002, "with a total investment value of almost €40 million, of which €13 million ha s come from grant resources provided by the EU".
Although the programme was due to end on June 30 this year, the EU has extended it until June
2010, giving rum producers an extra three years to take advantage of the funding. The extension will also grant producers the money needed to fully market their products in Europe , to carry out in-depth market research and to develop long-term brand promotions.
Smith predicts a significant shift in trade and consumer awareness and availability of quality branded rum in the UK over the next few years, and is eager to ensure
Cockspur benefits. "Small producers are getting funds via WIRSPA which means that we all know there is going to be a push in the category by an independent third party. That's why we are investing heavily," he says.
Such brand investment includes a three-year sponsorship deal that will see Cockspur heavily promoted during cricket matches as the official spirit of English Test match grounds. The link-up will also include perimeter board ads and a "rum shack" beach bar where the brand can be sampled.
A perfect match?
With investment levels rising and a generic campaign in place, there are signs of change in this traditionally on-trade focused category. "Rum has classically been built in the on -premise, but if you look at the changing dynamics you reali se that you should ignore the off -premise at your peril," Smith says.
Geraldine Roche, senior brand manager at First Drinks Brands,
believes excitement in the rum category is attracting a new customer base away from more traditional vodka brands: "There's certainly big moves towards rum as a category. Vodka fatigue is slipping in there."
Despite a growing number of rum drinkers in the UK, producers must be careful not to copy the means that on-trade vodka brands use to seduce customers, according to James Robinson, brand Manager for J Wray & Nephew UK
- which has Appleton Estate in its portfolio.
"It will always be important for the category to capture the imagination of the bar world, but this should not mimic the vodka model of multiple brand extensions, flavours
and focusing on packaging over product credentials," he says.
Education is playing an increasingly key role in attracting new drinkers, according to Robinson. But rather than go down the conventional route of tutored rum tastings, Appleton has teamed up with upmarket chocolate brand Green & Black's to run a series of rum and chocolate tastings hosted by J Wray & Nephew's master blender Joy Spence.
By introducing consumers to an unusual food and drink pairing, Appleton hopes to tap into a growing movement to push spirits in the direction of wine and beer and sell them as food matches. "Food pairing is very topical at present, and linking with recogni sed quality brands such as Green & Black 's has certainly allowed consumers to appreciate Appleton Estate
rum in a new and interesting way, such as choosing rum as an after-dinner drink," Robinson says.
"Appleton Estate Extra is created from rums that have been aged for up to 18 years, giving it a bold character and smooth taste. The very high cocoa content of Green & Black's new 85 per cent dark chocolate bar means it is one of the few chocolates that can take on Extra and complement
the complex taste that is often matched to that of a fine, aged
Scotch whisky," he adds.
Mixing it up
The nation's as-yet unsated thirst for the mojito and other popular rum-based cocktails will inevitably be identified as a factor that has boosted the rum category.
Liam Newton, director of marketing for Bacardi, says: "The rising popularity and continued growth of classic rum cocktails within the on-trade is fantastic news for the off-trade too. As cocktails such as the mojito and the
daiquiri continue to drive rum
in the on-trade, off-trade sales should also increase as consumers try to recreate their experience at home."
But Nikki Morrison, brand manager for Maxxium UK's Mount Gay rum, cautions retailers against relying too heavily on the growing popularity of mixing cocktails at home: "The
mojito has already done wonders for the category, but rum brands need to ensure that people explore and fully appreciate both the depths of flavour and
the versatility of the spirit."
It's up to the canny retailer to encourage customers to find a style of rum that suits them, according to Morrison. Promoting serving suggestions in
store is one way to "whet their appetite and spark their creativity", she says.
Amy Richardson, Diageo's brand manager for rum , believes that while TV and press advertising is vital
to growing brand awareness, retailers
who have an innovative approach to in-store promotions will see a significant sales uplift. "Marketing from brand owners certainly isn't the only way to drive sales. It is also important that retailers drive interest in rum through how they merchandise the category," she says. "For example creating a display of different brands and adding tasting notes and recommendations for each like they might do wine."
For Roche, sales are made in the off-trade by retailers who understand that the different styles of rum are drunk by very different consumers. "You can't think in terms of one size fits all, you've got to appreciate the big differences in target audiences," she says.
Evidence of this can be seen in the vastly different marketing messages of OVD dark rum, and Sailor Jerry golden rum, according to Roche. While OVD's recent Every Man's Got a Sweet Spot campaign was designed to appeal to "traditional and older drinkers" by featuring an on-pack promotion giving away DVDs of the comedy series Still Game, Sailor Jerry has been attracting younger consumers with sponsorship of Kerrang! magazine's annual awards and link-ups with bands such as The Damned. "It's about understanding the consumer and appreciating the vast differences in rum styles," she says.
With golden rum continuing to experience double -digit growth in the off-trade
16 per cent value growth in the year to April 2007, according to Nielsen - retailers that promote the small island golden rums in they same way that they merchandise
Scot tish malt whisk ies could see a boost in sales.
"Each golden rum is as different as each Scottish malt whisky and, in the same way, consumers need to taste the different styles and blends in order to decide on personal preference," a Cockspur spokesman says. And with rum's
first ever generic campaign about to launch in the UK, retailers with such an unusual approach to selling rum
will reap rich rewards.
For a category that is frequently critici sed for lacking the excitement and innovation that are associated with it in the bar world, it looks like rum has finally been given the attention
- and much -needed cash
- that it needs to compete with its off-trade rivals.
Battle of the brands
Premium niche rums are giving Bacardi a run for its money, according to Alan Daly who owns spirits
haven Gerry's in Soho.
"People associate rum with Bacardi," Daly says
of the brand
that dominates the category. But Daly has seen an increasing number of customers shunning Bacardi and other mainstream names in favour of more unusual, less widely available rums.
Gerry's stocks 50 rums, with the most expensive carrying a £750 price tag. Three of his biggest sellers are the Clement range, a selection of premium white and sophisticated aged rums from Martinique, a 15
Old Peruvian rum called Millonario which sells for £39
and Jefferson's Extra Fine Dark Rum from Antigua
at £24.95 .
"If customers seem really interested then we take them to the back office, which is reserved for the most unique and exciting rums," Daly says.
But are niche rum brands a serious threat to Bacardi, or will it continue to sit pretty as the top -selling rum in the off-trade? "Bacardi rum currently accounts for 89 per cent of
UK off-trade sales in the white rum sector, but this doesn't mean that we can, as a brand, become complacent," says marketing director
Bacardi is spending £15 million on a heavyweight marketing campaign for its Superior
rum. Called Elixir, the push will include a series of TV ads that are designed to encourage consumers to mix Bacardi with four new mixers - orange juice, ginger ale, cranberry juice or lime
and soda . Backing the launch will be print and online ads, and radio podcasts. Ads will also be screened on digital escalator panels in the London Underground, and on high definition plasma screens in key city locations for eight weeks.
"The introduction and growth of flavoured rum brands, such as Bacardi Apple and Bacardi Berry, have also pulled new consumers into the rum category, while extending the spirit's appeal to existing rum consumers," Newton adds.