With branding that evokes Victorian cocktail hours, Bombay Sapphire‘s distinctive blue bottle stands out among the crowding gin labels nestled on the back bar. But with the spirit enjoying a major resurgence, with the likes of Ryan Reynolds‘ Aviation Gin stealing air time and dozens of craft gin brands popping up, where does the legacy brand now sit within the drinks cabinet?
“There is room. Particularly now in the current consumer mindset, there’s a role for trusted brands,” asserts Tom Spaven, North America brand director for Bacardi’s Bombay Sapphire.
“One of the reasons why Bombay Sapphire is seeing a disproportionate share within gin is because people really trust established players.”
As part of The Drum’s Can-Do Festival, Spaven sat down with consulting editor Sonoo Singh for a chat about gin and a cocktail lesson to rival Stanley Tucci. Watch the happy hour in full here, or enjoy some key takeaways below.
The gin boom has reached the US
While the first gin craze took place in the 18th century, a 21st century rediscovery has seen gin sales soar past £2bn in 2019 in the UK, with demand for gin outstretching others in the spirit category. In 2018, it was reported that there were now 315 distilleries in Britain – more than double the number operating five years prior.
“The gin boom that‘s happened in the UK that is almost reaching maturity now and it‘s about to hit here in the US,” says Spaven. “We‘re seeing strong interest in the whole category, with retailers giving more space over and a lot of new entrants.”
”There‘s a lot of reasons behind the gin boom. We‘re seeing a younger generation looking for ways to be a bit different and gin offers something a little bit more nuanced, a little bit more flavorful than vodka, for example. We‘re seeing a lot of interest in more complex white spirits like tequila, which is huge here in the US. And gin is not far behind it in the running. We think that we‘re going to see a very exciting few years in the category.”
Ryan Reynolds is drawing attention to gin
Since 2018, actor Ryan Reynolds has made Aviation American Gin into a success story beyond the drinks cabinet.
“I think he‘s fantastic. Aviation is it‘s doing incredible things not just within gin, but within culture and we obviously keep an eye on it,“ Spaven admits.
“Ryan Reynolds is drawing attention to the gin category and its getting a lot of interest. There‘s definitely room for all of us to play. As we see small brands come in of varying quality, it just raises awareness of the category and gives us the opportunity to talk about the quality, the sourcing, the production, and the heritage of our brand, which is second to none. So I think it‘s a good thing. We‘re not afraid, but of course, we keep an eye on all the fun things happening in the category.“
Rise of craft
“Craft is becoming a bit of a buzzword... it‘s a bit like the word luxury. I‘m not sure what that means anymore. But the key point is – just because you‘re big doesn‘t mean you‘re not well crafted,“ he says.
“Bombay Sapphire has grown and become loved around the world because of the quality of sourcing of ingredients, the transparency we deliver, and the quality and consistency of the product. So depending on your definition of the word craft, I would say we‘re a fantastically crafted gin. But we don‘t necessarily act like a small, local, niche brand. It‘s just a different way of looking at it.“
Spaven spoke with consulting editor Sonoo Singh as part of The Drum’s Can-Do Festival, an online event celebrating the positive energy, innovation and creative thinking that can make the marketing community such a powerful force for good. You can watch the interview in full here.
Sign up to watch forthcoming sessions and see the full Can-Do schedule here.