Come May, fans of Captain Morgan rum will see the brand's swashbuckling mascot featured in a series of live-action commercials filmed by Tom Hooper, the director who won this year's Oscar for "The King's Speech."
The campaign will mark the first time that the Diageo brand has created a fictionalized "history" for the character inspired by real 17th-century Caribbean privateer Sir Henry Morgan.
The "60-second feature film productions" (the brand's terminology) are set in the mid-1600's and were filmed on a replica of the Spanish Galleon Andalucia in an undisclosed tropical location. And with Hooper -- known for his realistic period pieces (including the critically praised "Elizabeth I" and "John Adams" HBO mini-series) literally on board, the creative is undoubtedly among the brand's most expensive, as well as unusual, to date.
"Both the scope and direction of this campaign are unparalleled for Captain Morgan," Captain Morgan USA brand director Tom Herbst said in announcing it, adding that the brand is "ecstatic" to have Hooper bringing to life "the mystery and intrigue" surrounding Henry Morgan.
Starting May 14, fans will be able to view some of the "tales" on Captain Morgan USA's Facebook page and YouTube channel.
The first commercial will air on broadcast networks in late May, with additional spots to roll out throughout the summer. In addition to the usual responsible drinking mentions within the spots, a "dedicated" responsible drinking ad will be included within the campaign, according to Diageo.
In 2009, Captain Morgan, whose core audience is young-adult males, launched a "Calling All Captains" integrated campaign around centerpiece TV spots featuring young men in bar settings adopting personas such as "Captain Improv" and "Captain Icebreaker."
The brand continued to refresh that campaign with new elements, including an online tool that allowed pranksters to create customized voice mails to send to friends or foes (such as the voice of a "bartender" claiming he was stiffed on a tab by the message recipient). In a cause-related, year-long, Facebook-based "One Million Poses" initiative launched last November, some 207,000 fans to date have posted photos of themselves in a variety of poses emulating the Captain Morgan pirate. The brand is donating $1 for each posted pose to food banks and other nonprofits within an umbrella "First Mate Fund," with a goal of reaching $1 million in contributions.
The brand also ran a 2010 campaign for its new Lime Bite variety last year, with digital elements supporting TV spots with a "Delicious Pours" theme, also featuring young adult men in settings such as bars and house parties.
For fiscal 2010 (ending June 2010), Diageo reported worldwide gains of 3% in volume and 6% in net sales for Captain Morgan, the world's second-largest rum brand. Although the rum category as a whole slowed in the U.S. during the period, the brand gained market share here. Diageo attributed this to increased marketing spending (global spending across its six rum brands was upped by double digits) and successful innovations. In addition to the original spiced rum and Lime Bite, Captain Morgan's portfolio includes Silver Spiced, Private Stock, 100-Proof Spiced, Tattoo, Long Island Iced Tea and flavored Parrot Bay varieties.
For the six months ending December 2010, Captain Morgan's sales grew in the U.S. as well as in Diageo's other three global regions, with a particularly strong performance in Europe. However, the brand lost share in the U.S., its largest market, as a result of competition from new spiced rums with lower prices or higher proofs.
Diageo's overall marketing spending in North America increased by more than 12%, with Captain Morgan and other key brands seeing even larger increases.