Admiral Henry Morgan
By Teddy Wayne - Business Week
Next month, a team of marine archaeologists sponsored by Captain Morgan, the rum maker owned by London-based beverage conglomerate Diageo (DEO), will begin its first thorough excavation of a shipwreck located near the Lajas Reef off the coast of Panama.
They believe that the wrecked hull and its accompanying cargo belong to a fleet commanded in 1671 by the ruthless British buccaneer Admiral Henry Morgan—yes, the rum’s eponymous captain.
Longstanding brands often use their origin stories in ad campaigns as a way of building a greater sense of history and authenticity.
Products focusing on craftsmanship and premium quality tend to rely on this strategy—examples include Guinness’s proud reminders of its 253-year lineage, Bushmills’s “Since Way Back” ads, or Chevrolet’s (GM) Americana-soaked “Welcome to Bridgeville” campaign.
Even fast-food chain Wendy’s (WEN), a youthful enterprise by comparison, has gotten into the retro game, having featured its namesake Melinda Lou “Wendy” Morse, the founder’s daughter, in commercials since 2010.
More recently it launched a reboot of its famous “Where’s the Beef ?” commercials from the 1980s. Now Captain Morgan is digging deep into its past.
In May 2011, the company launched a marketing campaign focusing on the real Henry Morgan, a 17th century pirate who ranks among the most notorious of all time.
According to Tom Herbst, brand director for Captain Morgan USA, the goal was “to increase the authenticity and masculinity of the brand.”