Carter to face premium gin challenge

Andrew Carter’s switch from UK marketing director for Bacardi Brown-Foreman (BBF) to global brand director for premium gin label Bombay Sapphire highlights the company’s ambition for global expansion.

Managing partner of business relationship consultancy Aprais, Libby Child, who has worked closely with Carter since he joined BBF late last year, says the company is undergoing “cultural change” as it shifts toward centralising its operations from a global platform. Last year, it appointed WPP’s Y&R group to handle Bacardi-Martini’s $160m (£90.3m) global advertising account for its rum brands after a five-way pitch.

Child views the move as a step up for Carter, former director of marketing for Spirits at Bacardi-Martini UK, whom she describes as a “skilled senior operator”. Hugh Robertson, managing partner of experiential agency RPM, which works on the Bombay Sapphire account, agrees that Carter’s balance of marketing and commercial expertise makes him an ideal candidate to take on one of Bacardi-Martini’s worldwide “power brands”.

However, other industry sources question whether the change is a “delayed sideways demotion” for Carter, whose name was synonymous with a decision to ditch Bacardi’s highly successful Latin Quarter ads, once fronted by Vinnie Jones. Sources say the replacement £10m campaign, created by Fallon in response to tighter restrictions on alcohol advertising by the Alcohol Standards Authority (ASA), was labelled a “disaster” internally.

Rejuvenating gin
There are more challenges ahead for Carter, who has been charged with building Bombay Sapphire amid intensifying competition in the gin market.

Mintel predicts that the total UK white spirits market will grow from £2.96m in 2005 to £3.76bn in 2009. While vodka will continue to dominate the category, the shift from standard to super-premium is likely to push expansion across the gin sector – forecast to increase from £709m to £865m over the period.

Despite the opportunities for growth, Mintel warns that if the super-premium category is to succeed in rejuvenating the gin market, brands will have to educate consumers about the benefits of trading up. Diageo-owned Gordon’s is expected to maintain its dominance. It held a 41.4% share of the market by volume in 2004, leaving the UK’s number two Bombay Sapphire to fight it out against nearest rivals Plymouth Gin and Beefeater.

Distinctive voices
While none is likely to rival Gordon’s position, all three brands have been actively working to strengthen their place in the premium sector. Following Pernod Ricard’s £7.4bn acquisition of Allied Domecq in July last year, the company bolstered its branding team ahead of a major consumer push for the Beefeater label.

Vin & Spirit-owned Plymouth Gin has also been strengthening its operations, handing Team Saatchi its £3m advertising business late last year and then appointing Mediaedge:cia to its £2m media planning and buying account in January.

Childs says Bombay Sapphire has been actively developing a distinctive voice for itself at the premium end of the market.

Having established itself as a global premium player, the brand will have to work hard to defend its position. The degree of success is likely to hinge largely on how effectively it uses its global advertising platform to engage with its customers.