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Q & A

Captain of the Rum Category

Captain Morgan's event director talks about why his brand resonates with twentysomethings and how the Captain hosts 4,000 events a year.

Greg Leonard
Title
: Director of public relations and events for rums, classic malts, and American whiskey, Diageo North America
What He Plans: “Thousands of events [annually]. Big events include Fantasy Fest, Mardi Gras, the Kentucky Derby, and San Diego Street Scene.”
Staff: An assistant, with as many as 30 people working on event implementation
Age: 40
Career Path: After receiving a bachelor’s in communications from Concordia University, Leonard served as the Canadian Tennis Association operations coordinator. Next, he was manager of Marlboro Motor Sports at Philip Morris USA for five years. He spent three years as director of PR at Joseph E. Seagram and Sons, which was bought by Diageo North America in 2002.
Favorite Drink: Captain Morgan Private Stock on the rocks with a twist of lime

So, a costumed captain hosts 4,000 events a year, which is a lot—more than 10 events a night. How do you coordinate such a massive schedule?
Events have always been a driving element to the Captain Morgan franchise and the brand itself. We conduct grand-scale events such as Fantasy Fest [in Key West] and San Diego Street Scene, but we also have smaller events that take place on-premise. The consumer intercept, the one-to-one occasion where we bring the Captain’s spark to life, is fundamental to the brand. This system has grown over the brand’s 24-year history. The program is uniform throughout the country. We’ve found some really tremendous people to go out and execute these events for us, and we have multiple captains in every state who receive comprehensive training on messaging and social responsibility—they’re trained to be the best possible ambassadors. There’s a lot of moving parts, but we’ve been at this a long time.

What does the Captain typically do when he hits the town?
Withina 90-minute time frame, the Captain goes into a venue and brings it tolife. That’s really what our events program is about. We pick areaswhere there are numerous on-premise accounts, and the Captain will gofrom one stop to the next, often hitting three or four venues in thesame evening. Spontaneity is a huge part of the Captain experience. Weseek permission to conduct the promotions, but we’re not putting up asign that says the Captain is coming at “X” time. Our audience likesthe element of surprise. Once the Captain arrives, the Search Partybegins—men and women search for each other, trying to find a matchingnumber; if they connect with matching numbers, they win a prize. Orwe’ll give everyone keys to a treasure chest, and whoever has the keythat opens it gets a prize. The games really energize the place.

The Captain has been known to pop up at NFL tailgating partiesand at Mardi Gras, events typically attended by twentysomethings. Areyou actively seeking out this demographic?
Withtwentysomethings of legal drinking age, we look at: What do they do?What’s their lifestyle? Well, they like music, and they like sports.And the biggest sport is football. So the tailgate events allow us toengage people during a celebratory time, and it’s a way to bring TVadvertising to life in an atmosphere that’s conducive to CaptainMorgan. We promote the Captain as someone people would aspire tobe—he’s in control, suave, debonair, quick with a joke. It’s theyounger people who say, “Yeah, I’ve got a little Captain in metonight.”

Diageo owns Captain Morgan. Do you share marketing strategies with the company’s
other major brands?

Allthe time. Captain Morgan’s on-premise events are considered a bestpractice within the company. Other brands borrow from the events, downto a 90-minute interface and how we’ve left a venue much more livelythan when we walked in. Jose Cuervo and Smirnoff are two brands lookingto be more effective on-premise, and they have a great role model inCaptain Morgan.


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