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Bacardi to keep advertising budget digital-focused, to rope in influencers

Focusing on whisky to drive its growth in India, Alcobev brand Bacardi will soon launch several of its international brands in the country. The company will keep its ad budget digital-focused and tie up with sporting and music events. In an interaction with, Anshuman Goenka shares the company’s growth plans

Bacardi, which is largely seen as a white spirit brand, is looking to expand its whisky portfolio in both the premium and mass premium categories in India. The brand believes that its whisky portfolio and India’s growing obsession with the drink would fuel its growth. The company has a portfolio of 200 drinks globally. 

“We are backing on high whisky consumption, penetration of alcohol in women category among other factors for the growth in India,” said Anshuman Goenka, Head of Marketing, Bacardi India.

The company is trying to understand where the category and consumer opportunity is going and on that basis will look at innovation proposals.

In an interaction with, Goenka explained what other products would fare under its portfolio, with whisky being the focus in 2019. He talked about how the company’s association with IPL and musical events brings larger profits and why digital has become the most effective medium for it.

The company has a single-digit market share and is the largest international spirit company in India by volume. Goenka believes that the company is going ahead of competition, increasingly gaining market share in the premium category. Dewar’s, one of its brands, is among the fastest growing markets, globally.

Talking about FY 18-19, he said that the company has grown its business in high double digits, strengthening its leadership in various categories.  

Predicting trends for the upcoming years in the alcobev industry overall, Goenka said tier II and III cities are driving phenomenal growth.

He said there is a significant increase in consumption among women. Along with this, the cocktail culture and experimentation is also fattening. These are the sustainable trends that would continue for the next two to five years, he said.

Bacardi is taking whisky as a segment very seriously, keeping it as the focus for 2019, and bringing some of its global brands into the country.

In early 2017, it had introduced William Lawson’s Scotch in India and now the brand has become the fastest-growing scotch brands in India with a double-digit market share.

Being the entry level scotch premium brand, it is in competition with brands such as Vat 69. The company believes that scotch has been selling in the country for over 100 years in a very traditionalist categories with hard core rules on what to drink and when to drink.

Goenka said William Lawson’s comes in as a brand that stands for no rules with a tagline No Rule, Great Scotch. He said with the growth of millennials, India presents the right opportunity for the brand to expand and present a lot of marketing and selling opportunities.

With a belief of understanding the consumer nature and not changing it, he said, “When we were trying to create whole content around William Lawson’s, we took a step back to think what is the consumer culture that we want to go after, what is the occasion that we want to kind of get William Lawson's consumed in. We looked for the large enough opportunity for us to sell scotch.”

The brand has recently partnered with Mumbai Indians for IPL in the current year and is extendable to next year.

He added, “The brand is going to be about taking live sports along with being more about the occasion and the culture. It could very much be a football as we go down the road.”

Goenka said IPL presents a perfect sort of occasion to activate William Lawson’s, since it is all about being young with high energy, challenging convention for the masculinity.

He said, “There is a massive consumption opportunity that is sitting right out. IPL viewership is only growing year by year and it is one platform that has reinvented itself in a couple of years to make it even more relevant to the younger audience today. It's got the eyeballs. Right audience and scale.”

Goenka said that 100% of its advertising dollars is spent on digital only, a lot of which is being immersed with the understanding that working with the right influencers and creating content is culturally relevant. It is in the process of shooting content, which will get live in the coming week.

He added, “We identify the right influencers that would work for the brand, being disruptive themselves. We've identified a couple of people who actually embody the spirit.”

The brand is getting into experiential as well. It has Scottish Highlander as one of the mascots, activated into pubs and bars, offering tickets and merchandise along with activating an audience kiosk at the stadiums.

For the company, digital is the most effective medium but traditional also has a role to play in terms of scale and reach in tier II and III markets, Goenka said. For other brands, it is still active on traditional.

Bacardi has been associated with music events like NH7 Weekender, which is in its 10th year now. For Bacardi, it has always been music, globally, Goenka said.

To a question how beneficial these events are, he said, “The context is a bit different in alcobev since we operate in dark market regulations in terms of advertising and such events give us opportunity to advertise. The reason we do it is how to immerse a spirit brand in consumer culture with all the dark market regulations.”

He said one of the other ways to do that is to understand the positioning of the brand. What is the role that a brand can play in the lives of consumers from the popular culture point of view, and then how to create something experiential in nature where consumers can participate.

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