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Exclusive: Mike Dolan And Swizz Beatz On Bacardi’s New Cultural Platform

July 14, 2016

Earlier this week, Bacardi Ltd. announced a new alliance with artist and entrepreneur Swizz Beatz intended to position its brands front-and-center with the younger consumer demographic. Under the multi-year partnership, Beatz, who has previously worked with Reebok, Christian Louboutin, Aston Martin and other brands, will assume the title of global chief creative for culture, and be involved in marketing, advertising, innovation and selling platforms across the entire Bacardi portfolio. In this exclusive interview, Bacardi CEO Mike Dolan and Beatz spoke from Shanghai with SND senior editor Daniel Marsteller, discussing their goals for the new project.

SND: Why is this alliance important for Bacardi, and how is it different from other spirits industry celebrity partnerships in the past?

Dolan: This is part and parcel of all the changes that we’re making in how we address our consumers, particularly younger consumers. We made a big change last year when we got rid of all our advertising agencies and consolidated work with BBDO, and with OMD on the media planning side. That was step one. Step two was reorganizing ourselves, creating a structure where we have a CMO based in Europe and a CMO based in North America reporting to me, and a head of Creative Excellence working with the agencies. The third piece is our partnership with Swizz. We partnered with him last year on Art Basel in Miami and it was a great experience. What he brings to the party is an extraordinary feel for the younger consumer and the pulse of trends in music, art, fashion and culinary—verticals that are incredibly important to our consumer base. Other (celebrity partnerships) have been cases of a company riding on the celebrity of someone else, and the younger generation today sees through that in a heartbeat. What we’ve done is say to Swizz: We want your brain, and your creativity. And we want you to work with our agencies so that our messages and content are really relevant to this generation.

Beatz: This deal is the first of its kind, and hopefully people will see it as a blueprint to integrate with culture in more creative ways. It’s not about paying people to hold a drink in a club. We’re going to integrate the brand with culture in ways that are genuine and ways that give back, and do it on a global scale. It’s totally different from anything else I’ve done in the past. We’re going to be holding four No Commission Art Fairs a year—two in the U.S. and two outside the U.S.—where artists receive 100% of profits for their work. But we’ll also be touching into film, fashion, culinary, music, sports, technology and immersive experiences. When you drink Bacardi, it will happen organically because of these platforms we’ve created. And not only that, if you have a creative idea, or a project that’s unique, you can now come to us. That’s the piece of the puzzle that’s missing with so many brands. You have the agency, but where is the connectivity with the culture? We’re going to cover a lot of untapped territory and we want people to see us as trailblazing from 2016 moving forward.

SND: Do you envision the creation of new brands?

Dolan: The immediate focus is going to be on our existing brands—there’s a lot to keep us occupied. But I wouldn’t rule out new brands. We’re going to let the opportunities dictate to us where we should go, and then go after them.

SND: Where do you see opportunities to leverage these kinds of cultural platforms?

Dolan: We’re very bullish about the new route to market in North America, and we’re going to put the pedal to the metal. But the opportunities for Bacardi in Asia, Africa and the Middle East are also large. We’re speaking from a restaurant in Shanghai, where we’ve been having dinner with our local distributors. Swizz is not here as a celebrity or musician. He’s here with those distributors as a guy who’s generating new ideas, new approaches for marketing, how to present Bacardi, Dewar’s, Grey Goose and Martini in the best possible light. That’s how they see him—as a partner on these brands.

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