While advertising alcohol in India may once have been a herculean, if not impossible, feat at one time because of the prohibitions on traditional media and societal mores, the digital age has more than lifted the veil.
Social media users, platforms, and entire ecosystems are enabling the marketing of newly uncorked homegrown beer and booze brands, even as legacy labels launch new ways to market their age-old spirits.
And there are entire new consumer cohorts coming in all the time. India is one of the fastest-growing alcoholic beverages markets globally, with an estimated market size of $52.5 billion (over four lakh crore INR) in 2020. The market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.8% between 2020 and 2023 (ICRIER 2022).
“Furthermore, by 2030, 26% of Indian drinks consumers are expected to move to higher brands and 24% will spend on newer categories of alcohol, premiumisation is here to stay. This is an extremely exciting time for us at Bacardi as we focus on new strategies to compete and stand out in the increasingly competitive alco-bev industry in India,” says Zeenah Vilcassim, Director, Marketing, Bacardi India.
She says that the 157-year-old brand aims to deliver five times their current business results in the country by 2030 and that they are well on track with that ambition. “India presents an exciting growth opportunity for us, as it is the #1 market globally for whisky (185M cases), rum (31M cases), and brandy (55M cases). We are poised for accelerated growth in India given our global leadership in rum and ownership of the most awarded whisky portfolio,” she says, adding that according to the IWSR 2020 the categories that Bacardi plays in (mixed drinks, spirits, and wine), India is the second largest market by volume and value (280 million cases sold and $16 billion in sales).
“Our strategy has always been to invest in creating sustainable platforms and experiences across our brands by being a part of our consumers’ lives and passions,” notes Vilcassim, asserting that the brand “generated immense love in the country through platforms such as NH7 Weekender, a immersive music experience that has seen over half a million consumers walk through the gates of the festival. Our flagship property Breezer Vivid Shuffle is built on Breezer’s commitment to supporting grassroot hip hop communities, and has been our lead platform to take forward its brand ethos to the new generation of alcohol consumers.”
Talking further about Bacardi’s ever-evolving marketing strategies, Vilcassim says that the pandemic pushed the brand to pivot towards creating unique virtual experiences for its audience and TGs to keep them engaged. “The three big trends that have accelerated in the past few years are convenience, comfort, and curiosity. We looked at our existing properties and aimed at re-inventing them for the ‘new normal’, or rather, the ‘new future’. Our strategies in the space of marketing have helped us continue on our growth trajectory in the country,” she says.
And this of course includes embracing emerging tools in adtech and martech, such as the metaverse and digital immersion. “The past two and a half years have seen rapid digitization, and today, a new era is emerging. As we speak, the lines between physical and digital worlds are more blurred than ever – actually, you could argue the lines don’t even exist anymore, and the pandemic pushed us even further to focus on innovative martech experiences,” she says.
“During the lockdown in 2020, we evolved the on-ground festival into a virtual experience with over 4000 people in attendance. The successful first edition of the online edition of the Nh1 Weekender encouraged nearly 6 million consumers to do what moves them from the comfort of their own homes. We also launched the first-ever Dewar’s Club at Home experience,” says Vilcassim.
“In 2021, we integrated an AR virtual immersive 3D island with our partner Sansar to transport people across 25 different countries to our Caribbean paradise. To ensure we could also give people an at-home experience we created special Casa BACARDÍ kits available to purchase online, enabling them to recreate a Caribbean vibe,” she says, adding that the experience virtually connected audiences through photo booths, games, mobile and in-world chat. And there’s presumably a lot more action slated for the remaining year, given that festive season is around the corner.
All that being said, however, “Bacardi is a member of the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) as well as the International Spirits & Wines Association of India (ISWAI). We always have, and always will continue to work within the guidelines and regulations of the market,” concludes Vilcassim.