Bacardi Ad Revives the History of the Cuba Libre

Por-Cuba-Libre-mdIn his column “Dowd on Drinks,” Bill Dowd (Times Union) writes about how the Bacardi Company is releasing a television commercial that capitalizes on the supposed historical origins of the “Cuba Libre” cocktail—rum and Coke. [Remember to watch the video of the ad in the link below!]

Through all sorts of societal changes and over several generations, the Cuba Libre has endured as a very popular cocktail. The recipe is a simple one: Light rum, Coca-Cola and a squeeze of lime. Where it came from is, as is the case with so many cocktail origins, a matter of opinion.

The most popular version matches that told in a soon-to-be-released Bacardi USA TV commercial — that it was created in Cuba in 1900 as Colonel Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders helped fight for the island’s independence from Spain — and takeover by the U.S. They toasted the victory with the cheer “Free Cuba!” or “Cuba Libre!” in Spanish. The spot, reports Advertising Age, is the first in a series of ads showing historical events that shaped the 151 year-old brand, which has links to the creation of other rum cocktails such as the Daiquiri and Mojito. However, Coca-Cola won’t be getting a free ride on the Bacardi advertising dollar. The ad will refer to the drink as “run [sic] and cola.”

The historic theme may well be in response to competitors’ rum ads featuring historic personalities. Diageo has recast its once silly Captain Morgan as real-life privateer Captain Henry Morgan of the 1600s. William Grant & Sons is pushing its Sailor Jerry rum by using Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins, a renowned American tattoo artist and Navy man of the mid-1900s. Last year, both brands gained market share on Bacardi, although it remains the top-selling U.S. rum with 35.4% share in 2012, according to Euromonitor International which measures volume of liters sold. Captain Morgan is No. 2 with 23.2%, and Sailor Jerry No. 7 at 2.6%.

Bacardi’s campaign is timed to coincide with Cuban Independence Day on Monday. Interesting, considering both Bacardi and Coca-Cola left the island nation after Fidel Castro came to power. Bacardi now is made in Puerto Rico; Coca-Cola in plants all over the world — except Cuba and North Korea where the product is not sold.

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