Major Lazer Gets Rum Deal

Diplo, Jillionaire and Walshy Fire rumming it at the Bacardi plant.

The Maor Lazer crew — Diplo, Jillionaire and Walshy Fire — launch “The Sound of Rum.” (Photo courtesy Bacardi)

Bacardí has tapped Major Lazer as brand advisers, appointing its DJ Jillionaire the “Minister of Rum,” tapping the group’s new song, “Front of the Line,” written with Jamaica dancehall artist Konshens, for promotional use. The canny cross-promotion has a lot going for it, leveraging the electronic dance trio’s Caribbean musical influences, the party atmosphere of its live performance and the keen understanding of its audience the electronic dance music trio has exhibited marketing themselves.

The group was the No. 3 dance music act of 2016, according to Billboard, selling hundreds of thousands of albums, and now they’re going to pour a little of that magic into selling rum. As campaigns go, it’s a great fit. As exemplars of DJ culture, Major Lazer has embraced its plasticity with a guileless joy that makes them at once glamorous and authentic.

In the sphere of social influence it’s the magic combination, which is where Bacardí (and every brand) wants to be, introducing their product to a new audience in a way that seems effortless and fun. And it is a natural fit. The band’s three principals have island roots. Jillionaire, whose name is Chris Leacock, was born in Trinidad, and he takes rum quite seriously. Though he jokes that he “can’t wait for the inauguration” that marks the outset of his ministerial duties, when he talks about visiting the Bacardí distillery in Puerto Rico he sounds more professor than politician. “We went into the lab and did two or three different mixtures, and then taste tests,” Jillionaire told Variety.

Major Lazer rum blend in progress. (Photo courtesy of Bacardi)

Major Lazer rum blend in progress. (Photo courtesy of Bacardi)

To hear Bacardí global head of music Liz Walaszczyk tell it, the company started working with Major Lazer early this year on a “Sound of Rum” concept for summer, only to notice Jillionaire’s depth of knowledge and passion for the spirit, its roots and craftsmanship. “We approached him to consider the open role for minister of rum at the company.”

When I express skepticism as to whether this is an actual position, I’m emailed a job posting from LinkedIn (and wonder if “presentation skills” means Jillionaire knows his way around a PowerPoint). Duties include lots of international travel being an ambassador for rum.

Bacardí has been on a high-end hiring spree, having last summer named music producer Swizz Beatz as its “global chief creative for culture.”  “We have one of the most iconic brands in the industry, but over the last few years we were not really connecting as effectively as we could with our target consumers and the new millennial.”Mauricio Vergara, Bacardi Limited’s chief marketing officer for North America and the global lead for the Bacardí brand, told Ad Age.

The Major Lazer collaboration addresses that concern, tapping into the Jamaican dancehall, reggae, hip-hop and electronic influences that inform their music. The DJ known as Walshy Fire, Leighton Paul Walsh, hails from Jamaica, and Diplo, Thomas Wesley Pence, was raised in Miami, steeped in Cuban culture. The bandmates took a trip to the Bacardí distillery in Puerto Rico, where they worked alongside Maestro de Ron Manny Oliver to develop Bacardí Major Lazer Limited Edition Rum. The blend of light and heavy dark rums, tropically aged 3-4 years, features notes of tropical fruit, cedar, almonds and vanilla.

Bacardí Maor Lazer Limited Edition Rum will be available nationwide in mid-June for $19.95, and to select international markets beginning in September. (It can be pre-ordered now at ReserveBar.com.)

Jillionaire was crowned the minister of rum on May 24 in Berlin at the annual Bacardí  Legacy Cocktail Competition. Friday, May 26, the “Sound of Rum” campaign kicks off with a party on a private beach in Miami with an intimate performance by Major Lazer, pop up restaurants and, of course, cocktails. A “Sound of Rum” song for summer will premiere at the event, which Bacardi will use in its promos.

Major Lazer's Washy Fire, Jillionaire --the new "Minister of Rum" -- and Diplo

Tasting success: Major Lazer’s Washy Fire, Jillionaire –the new “Minister of Rum” — and Diplo enjoy the fruits of their mixology, Bacardí’s Limited Edition EDM rum. (Photo courtesy of Bacardi)

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