FAJARDO, PUERTO RICO When it came time for Bacardi to stage the biggest brand experience in its 152-year history—a multimillion-dollar extravaganza with performances by Calvin Harris, Ellie Goulding, and Kendrick Lamar on a private island—the family-owned spirits company turned to its native backyard, Puerto Rico, to play host. And over Halloween weekend, the rum maker held a music festival-cum-brand experience billed as the “Bacardi Triangle.”
“Bacardi came from an island, so we wanted to celebrate a premium event at a first-class resort on an island,” said Bacardi chief Joaquin Bacardi. In addition to the warm climate that lent itself to outdoor activities, the all-expenses-paid three-day experience also enticed journalists from as far as China to visit Puerto Rico—home to the world's largest rum distillery.
Overseeing the execution was United Kingdom-based production company Broadwick Live, which worked in tandem with John Rash, Bacardi’s global music director, and, in Puerto Rico, local production firm HA Musik.
Three months of research and four months of pre-production drew some impressive results: 1,862 guests (the number representing the brand’s founding) flown to the El Conquistador resort and spa on three chartered planes from three hubs for a trip that boasted three A-list performances representing three genres of music. And while the event riffed off the nearby Bermuda Triangle with its moniker, the “three” theme came, rather, from the three ingredients of the Cubra Libre drink.
In total, about 200 media and influencers representing some two dozen global cities attended; the rest of the audience was comprised of contest winners and influencers the artists brought in from their respective networks.
A chief factor in planning the event was its integration of travel—a specialty at seasoned festival producer Broadwick Live. “We have seen a massive trend toward this in the last five years and the travel aspect of this was always at the forefront of our objectives from the initial conception,” said Broadwick Live’s Bradley Thompson. “It allowed us to engage with a global audience and, in particular, all the local Bacardi markets around the world.”
Added Rash, “Today’s Bacardi consumer is seeking experiences over possessions and Bacardi Triangle was one expression of this.”
Naturally, with an event of its magnitude, there were bound to be a few hiccups. They ranged from the minor—flight delays, repetitive foods, lack of engaging activities to explore the island—to one major: the two- to three-hour wait to get to the concert caused by the one suitable barge in the country breaking down, resulting in smaller ferries being brought in.
“What made it challenging was the sheer number of areas and the fact that the venue itself was quite disjointed,” said Thompson, who employed an on-site staff of more than 150. “The most difficult aspect was working with people and suppliers that were new to us; we found ourselves micromanaging aspects of the event that we shouldn’t have had to. In the future, a tighter team of core suppliers to manage the sub-contracted companies would have helped.”
Despite that, the overwhelming majority of attendees appreciated the carte blanche they were given to do as little, or as much, as they wanted. One helpful touch: in addition to the six complimentary drinks allotted for each guest per day, R.F.I.D.-enabled wristbands were issued that could be easily refilled and scanned by bartenders and security.
As Rash noted and Mr. Bacardi concurred, the occasion allowed for the Bacardi brand to get back on track with consumers via social media and to speak to them in their language. “This wasn’t about brand sponsorship,” said Rash. “It was about event creation.”