Behind every BACARDÍ cocktail lies a story demonstrating the timeless link between alcohol and human culture. Recognizing the intrinsic relationship between spirits and society, Bacardi has undertaken an innovative new marketing strategy aimed at an industry known for setting trends, pushing the envelope, and hosting lavish celebrations: fashion.
A Dedicated Role
In April 2015, Bacardi created a new executive leadership position, VP of fashion, based at its headquarters in Bermuda. The new marketing leader has responsibility for forging partnerships between Bacardi and the fashion world, exploring creative strategies to incorporate the company’s extensive portfolio of spirits into many of the industry’s most noteworthy events.
For this new role, Bacardi chose accomplished marketing professional Akiko Maeda, a Tokyo native with a wealth of experience in the international fashion and digital media sectors. Maeda’s considerable experience includes a role as VP of product and platform development for the fashion division of IMG Worldwide, a global event and talent management firm. In this capacity, she worked with emerging designers to develop sales, financial, and media strategies. She also spearheaded the firm’s investment in luxury fashion retailer ModaOperandi.com in her former role of VP of social media during which time she created community-driven digital products for IMG’s professional athletes.
Akiko Maeda now draws on this experience to introduce Bacardi to a broader segment of consumers, working closely with the company’s existing marketing and commercial teams to forge connections between its family of leading alcoholic beverages and the glamorous world of fashion.
The First-Ever New York Fashion Week: Men’s
Chasing the success of longstanding, womenswear-oriented New York Fashion Week, The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) recently hosted a weeklong fashion showcase dedicated solely to emerging men’s designs. The CFDA presented its inaugural New York Fashion Week: Men’s from July 13-16 at Skylight Clarkson Sq. The event featured the latest apparel from prominent names such as Calvin Klein, Rochambeau, Perry Ellis, Michael Kors, and Rag & Bone.
As an event sponsor, Bacardi guided partnerships between three of the city’s top mixologists and a trio of upcoming fashion designs to craft custom cocktails for the week’s exclusive social events. The company chose three spirit varieties for the unique project: GREY GOOSE vodka; BOMBAY SAPPHIRE gin; and BACARDÍ Gran Reserva Maestro de Ron, a super-premium mixing rum double-aged in white oak casks.
First, Bacardi’s selected mixologist visited the designers’ studios to gain a feel for their general style and the aesthetics of their new collections. They then returned to their mixing stations to develop specialty cocktails inspired by the cuts and colors of the upcoming season, meeting with the designers once more at their own bars to finalize the bespoke beverages. Later, the mixologists served their creations to partygoers at private promotional events, garnering praise from guests and designers alike.
Thaddeus O’Neil’s Womenswear Debut
Bacardi also partnered with luxury playwear designer Thaddeus O’Neil for one of its first forays into the fashion world. During the New York City debut of the label’s first womenswear collection, guests enjoyed imaginative cocktails featuring Bacardi-owned CORZO tequila as they previewed the fashion house’s upcoming après surf inspired ensembles for the spring/summer 2016 season. New York mixologist Jillian Vose partnered with the Thaddeus O’Neil himself to develop festive blends of tequila, spices, and bitters. The designer drew inspiration from the themes of his newest collection to name each mixed drink. Served in elaborate coconut shells, the event’s featured cocktails included such dramatic concoctions as “Death of Venice,” “The Beach on Which Caravaggio Died,” and “Our Salty Bodies Burning in the Sand.”
A Natural Partnership
As both play a leading role in social culture, alcoholic beverage companies have built a history of collaboration with the creative sector. Absolut Vodka in particular shares a storied history with the arts, as Andy Warhol became the first artist to create an original piece based on the brand in 1986. In October 2014, Absolut partnered with The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts to create 4 million limited edition Andy Warhol bottles based on his original piece. Throughout its history, the Swedish company has partnered with thousands of additional artists, including Spike Jonze, Lady Gaga, Swedish House Mafia, Keith Haring, and Damien Hirst.
In recent years, a growing number of spirits producers have zeroed in on the unique creative possibilities offered by the fashion sector in particular. For Valentine’s Day in both 2013 and 2014, DiSaronno worked with Italian luxury fashion firm Moschino for the “Moschino Loves DiSaronno” campaign, which featured a stylish seasonal bottle adorned with red hearts. For the 2014 holiday season, the Italian liqueur brand collaborated with high-end fashion house Versace to present “DiSaronno Wears Versace,” a limited edition packaging style featuring a glamorous blue and gold design inspired by the Versace Home Collection print, Tresor de la Mer.
Going Beyond Exclusivity
While Bacardi is not the only spirits producer to pursue the natural partnership between alcohol and fashion, its modern approach to its new marketing strategy sets it apart from the rest of the industry. Bacardi is reaching beyond visual style to promote its brands through cocktail design, displaying its link with leading designers not on shelves, but at the fashion industry’s top events. Bacardi is the first company to create a dedicated role for marketing leadership in the realm of fashion, and it also differs from the rest of the market in its dedication to digital engagement. Akiko Maeda accepted the role of VP of fashion with the goal of connecting Bacardi with adult fashion consumers while leveraging social media content to connect with a broader audience. By developing cocktails, events, and partnerships that integrate with established social media platforms, Akiko Maeda and Bacardi hope to reach audiences not only at exclusive fashion events, but around the world.