The move comes as rum makers follow the premiumisation path of whisky and cognac in targeting more discerning drinkers. The marketing efforts are set to widen the category’s appeal in the coming years with Euromonitor projecting a 17 per cent rise in global rum sales between 2011 and 2016, to 1.7bn litres.
Pernod Ricard’s growing interest in the category was reflected in its latest quarter when it revealed Havana Club sales outperformed most of its top 14 brands, posting an 8 per cent rise in revenue.
To capitalise on the shift, Havana Club is readying a wave of brand building initiatives to showcase its deep-rooted ties to the city in the hope of exploiting premiumisation cues around ageing, authenticity and cocktails. A campaign, fronted by DJ Giles Peterson, will launch in the New Year allowing fans from several countries to create their own mixes of Cuban music with their own tracks. The BBC Radio 6 DJ will select the best mixes and work with their producers to create a version for an album.
It is an attempt to offset some of the more “high-brow” initiatives from Havana Club’s “Havana Cultura” brand platform such as music concerts and art exhibitions with something “everyone can take part in”, according to the business.
Jérôme Cottin-Bizonne, managing director of Havana Club International (HCI), the joint venture between Pernod Ricard and the Cuban government to distribute the rum, told Marketing Week at the tie-up’s 20th anniversary in Cuba that it will “take time” for upcoming initiatives to convince drinkers to try the brand outside of the traditional party environment.
He adds: “The rum category isn’t structured like cognac or whisky so it’s going to take time for us to educate consumers – by getting them to visit Cuba, sample the rum and through us working with bartenders – on how they can improve their rum experience.”
Havana Club is something of a cultural icon in its native country, symbolizing its artisan heritage and revolutionary past. Both are elements the brand has attempted to push in the past, however, with momentum gathering behind the category the rum maker now feels it has support from Pernod Ricard to amplify those ties and promote the brand as one to be savoured with friends.
An update to the ongoing “Nothing compares to Havana” campaign is in the works for next year alongside plans to increase sampling and on-trade promotions around cocktails. Additionally, it is readying promotions for its Seleccion de Maestros and Maximum variants to capitalise on the “big opportunity” around super and ultra-premium rum.
Nick Blacknell, international marketing director for HCI, says: “We’re trying to change the psychology of consumers to get them to think about rum as something they can appreciate. It’s important that we’re a brand talking about the ‘real Cuba’ and have marketing that reflects that constantly changing culture. Digital is our primary way of communicating [that] culture.”