You don't go into battle with the mascot you want, you go with the mascot you have. That's what the Captain Morgan brand of rum is doing with a tuned up version of its pirate character, Captain Morgan.
As with Batman and James Bond, Captain Morgan is getting a "gritty and real" makeover, transforming him from a red-coated cartoon buffoon to a scruffy, brooding rum-swilling badass more in keeping with his "privateer" roots.
The Diageo-owned brand's new campaign, "To Life, Love & Loot," boasts an Academy Award-winning director in Tom Hooper (The King's Speech). In the new campaign, starting with the "Dive" spot above, Hooper is again directing a period piece — only this time based on the fictional character of Captain Henry Morgan.
As laid out in the Captain Morgan release:
"Set in the mid-1600's, the campaign tells an interpretive, witty narrative about a great leader who fearlessly protected his crew and had the ability to gracefully navigate whatever life threw his way. The first spot, 'DIVE,' showcases Captain Morgan and his unique prowess in diffusing a potentially violent situation when his crew is surprised by an enemy ship. To everyone's amazement, the Captain prevents an inevitable attack by executing a picture-perfect dive from his ship into the sea below, protecting his crew and ultimately transforming enemies into friends."
Despite the splash of Old Spice Man-esque swan dive, it's a bold vision for a brand, which, despite a recognizable spokesman, has struggled to stay focused on the last few years.
For the last couple years, the brand's "Got a little captain in you?" campaign (which extended to an alleged NFL ambush marketing stunt) relegated the captain to a disembodied concept:
Then there was the "Welcome to the Captain's World" campaign last autumn, wherein model Marissa Miller did battle with a different version of the Captain (or she was the captain) on an island dance club.
But then he was also an absurdist comic foil in ads where the brand almost seemed to be mocking its own mascot.
Then, during a bizarre stunt earlier this year, Captain Morgan ran for mayor of Chicago.
The full campaign launches in June and is well timed to pick up on this weekend's release of the next Pirates of the Caribbean juggernaut.