This week the 10th Bacardí Legacy Global Final takes place in Mexico City. And while it’s going to be heaps big fun for the 500 or so of us who have been lucky enough to be invited to the week-long event, a year of meticulous planning has gone into its execution.
We spoke to Bacardi Global Brand Ambassador Dickie Cullimore (above) to find out what it takes to bring this incredible show to life.
First things first
I have to start by saying that we’re incredibly lucky that we have a partner that is so much more than an agency, it’s a real collaboration. That’s how we regard the relationship we have with Lab 5. We’ve partnered with them for the last seven years and the understanding they have of Legacy and the brand is invaluable.
The initial planning stages starts with the core team which is made up of Frances and Luke Woodford on the day-to-day running, execution and planning of the event, Michelle Ruddenklau on the PR side, plus Nicola Fenwick on logistics. Ole Buddrus and multiple people get involved along the way but there’s always Lab 5 and always the Bacardí Legacy Global team throughout the entire operation.
Choosing the city
About three months before the Globals Finals we start having conversations and reflecting on the last few years. The way we select where the next host city should be is by looking at where we’ve hosted it in the previous years. Last year it was Berlin, before that it was San Francisco and prior to that, Sydney. Looking at those cities we try to see what the natural progression might be. There are also other factors to consider; for instance, the city has to be an inspiring, aspirational city with a really up-and-coming cocktail community. That’s why it was a clear choice for Mexico City this year.
Berlin has a super established cocktail community and great bars – the same with San Francisco, both have been instrumental in leading mini cocktail revolutions along the way. It felt like we were ready for an exciting new city and one of the most exciting is Mexico City. We’re not the only ones to recognise it – before we knew it, Diageo were having the same conversation about where they were hosting their cocktail competition World Class last year. I’m sure they were equally surprised when we announced Berlin as our host city in 2017 when they are doing it in 2018 but naturally, these things happen.
That said, Mexico City is one of our spiritual brand homes, Bacardí has had a presence there since the 1930s. We have one of our iconic distilleries at La Galarza, Puebla, and the amazing Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe designed offices and bottling plant there, so it made a lot of sense. But there’s more to it than that. For a long time when anyone was thinking about the most important cocktail capitals in Latin America, Miami came to mind, now it’s Mexico. It has some great bars like Limantour, Hanky Panky and Fifty Mils, as well as wonderful personalities and young vibrant people. It’s perfect.
Dickie Cullimore with Bacardí Legacy Global Final 2015 winner, Franck Dedieu
The year in focus
By this stage we know where the next year’s Global Final is going to be as we’ve already announced it at the Celebration Party which is always held the day after the current Global Finals. Together with Frances and Luke from Lab 5, we start looking at and booking up hotels and venues for the upcoming semi and grand final. The final of the competition runs for seven days which means seven days of events – on some days we might have a couple of events a day so it’s important to lock in those key venues and then we can work everything around that.
When it comes to the hotel, it has to feel Legacy, it has to feel like the personality of Bacardí and the bartenders. This year we’ve been incredibly lucky with the W Hotel, right from the start they have been super accommodating and keen to be involved as they see it as a great link for their brand.
At the start of the week we have roughly 120 people join us, they’re made up of competitors, brand ambassadors, speakers, judges and media. The number grows to around 500 leading up to the grand final, this includes a large contingent of the local community. One of the things is for us is, if we’re going to a community we need to be in the community.
The other thing we focus on in these early months is finding our key partners on the ground. During this time we get to know the brand team in the host city, expressing what we want to achieve and working out how we can realistically bring it all to life – they have a huge responsibility. We start the briefing and share our conceptual ideas for the look and feel and they have to bring it to life. That’s everything from the execution of the build to the sourcing of ingredients.
Bacardí Legacy Global Final winners: Lizzy Evdokimove (Russia, 2013), Shingo Gokan (US, 2012), Gn Chan (2016), Tom Walker (UK, 2014)
We also start thinking about the key messages that we want to get across. Always at the forefront is wellbeing and health, with wellbeing coaches, performance coaches and healthy breakfasts and lunches. Other messages might be excitement of the new rums, how do we bring that to life? A lot of time and investment has gone into the brand look and feel and what I look at now is does what we’re doing align perfectly with what we’re trying to do as a brand and a company and looking to the future. We want to make sure that as Bacardí moves and Bacardí rums moves, Bacardí Legacy is a way of bringing those things to life throughout. Without that it’s just a very, very, very expensive exercise and great time for bartenders and media.
End of July/early August:
I’ll probably be in the host market again, this time to start looking at bar relationships and who we’d like to partner with. It’s usually a combination of established accounts that really love Bacardí and accounts we’d like to work with. These associations are built off the back of the work the local team does. Usually the country we go to has some kind of bar show – Barra Mexico, the leading Latin American drinks trade show, was a key for me to present about the excitement of Legacy coming to town and what it can do for bartender’s careers. Often around this time the new global finalist will do their first visit to the upcoming host city as well.
The is when we begin checking out venues for seminars and where we’ll be hosting dinners. It’s important that each venue suits a particular rum or occasion for the message that we want to get across. We’re also thinking about what it all looks like: what’s the imagery for the show? Not just for the grand final but throughout the week as well. What’s the visual personality of the particular rum that we’re talking about? For Bacardí Carta Blanca it’s vibrant and accessible; it can be loud, probably a party. Our new rum, Bacardí Anejo Cuatro is a completely different character and therefore needs a different look and feel. At the moment, Bacardí Legacy is the only thing that spans the different families of rums in the Bacardí range, so we try to make sure everything comes across effectively. That’s another reason why our relationship with Lab 5 is invaluable and why we do Legacy together. They know the brand visual identity and when we’re looking at venues, it helps to have their knowledge.
The other thing that happens in October is for us to get to know the bars and feeling the rhythm and buzz of the cities. I like to think about the colours of a city. What colours do the Mexican community identify with versus what the global perception of it is? We want our guests to see beyond the cliches and really experience the city – we want to make an impact on that city. We also have to consider how we hit the synergy between getting our messages and objectives across but in an authentic way so the local team are proud of showing off their country. It’s like an opening ceremony of an Olympics in that respect.
Other than that, we’re also well into the Legacy cycle with the local markets during October and November and I’ll be travelling extensively.
Dickie in presentation mode
By now we should have our partner bars, venues, hotels finalised; we’ll also have a list of activities for the week and probably have an idea of who the judges are. I say probably because sometimes people aren’t available and it can take time finding someone with the attributes we’re looking for.
A word on the judges…
How the judges are chosen: For the promotional judges I always have Enrique Comas or someone representing the Bacardí family, plus someone from the brand because it’s important for them to see the amazing ideas that the bartenders come up with. We’ll also have a bartender who has created their own brand and understands the thought processes and struggles that bartenders have to go through with their promotional campaigns – it’s not a natural thing for them but can often be the most rewarding part of the whole process. In previous years we’ve had Jim Meehan and Ryan Chetiyawardana and this year we have Shingo Gokan – he’s the perfect embodiment of what Legacy can do for a winner. Lastly, we have someone from the media world. This year we’re thrilled to have Kofi Amoo-Gottfried, Facebook’s Head of Brand & Consumer Marketing. He was previously Bacardí Global Communications Director so he’ll be bringing his two worlds and passions together.
As for the cocktail judging panel, for the semi-finals we have a previous winner, this year it’s Gn Chan who won in 2016; then we have a leader in the community – it’s important for us to have a local involved without conflict and that’s Benjamin Padron, owner of award-winning Licoreria Limantour in Mexico. We also have world renowned Tiki enthusiast Danielle Dalla Pola; Carina Soto Velásquez , co-founder of Quixotic Projects in Paris; Pamela Wiznitzer, creative director and bartender at Seamstress in New York and National President of the United States Bartenders’ Guild.
For the Grand Final we always have the Maestro, Jose Sanchez Gavito. He’s been a judge since the first year and he’s a real cocktail lover. We always have the current winner, so this year it’s Ran Van Ongevalle. Then we look for two to three inspirational people from the bar world and we’re thrilled to have Alex Kratena, founder of industry non-for-profit P(OUR) and former Head Bartender of multi-award winning Artesian bar in London, as well as Ivy Mix, founder of ‘Speedrack,’ co-owner of Leyenda in Brooklyn and 2015 American Bartender of the Year. It’s important for us the have a culturally diverse judging panel – not because it’s fashionable; it’s something we’ve been working at for quite a while.
The 2015 judging panel (l-r: Jose Sanchez Gavito, Ago Perrone, Tom Walker, Steve Schneider) with winner Franck Dedieu (centre)
By now it’s about the local team on ground doing their thing. Ole, Luke and myself will be focusing on matching up venues to the drinks, we want every drink served throughout the week to be amazing. Some of the skills and techniques you need to bring off a big event like this aren’t common in some markets, or it might be that they don’t have experience of doing things of this scale up to this quality, so we work on that.
Frances will be well into production of the look and feel of the event while Michelle will be looking at how we want to tell the story of Legacy leading up to, during and post the event. Frances will be doing a lot of the back end work with the local market – who’s paying for what, how it’s being paid, that kind of thing. She’s insanely busy or should I say, even busier than normal at this point.
We’ll also be chasing final responses for our judges, finalising seminar ideas and workshops and thinking of clever ways of making people feel something during the week.
End of January-March
Once the winners from each market are announced, I working directly with them, giving them the support they need. That’s everything from collating information and triple checking recipes, through to advising on visas required and giving them help with any tweaks that might be required to get them ready for the final.
By now we’re speaking to designers on a daily basis. During the week we’ll have 16 events and each one has it’s own menu. We have to decide on whether it’s going to be tray service, or order from a menu or buffet-style; then there’s the question of who’s going to make the drinks and what the rest of the room going to look like? We’re also considering what clever subtle ways that we can make each venue look, a) Bacardí and b) Legacy, without it being too heavily branded. It’s a challenge but part of the fun.
At the end of the Global Final…
Once the winner is announced, the first thing I do is sit down with the new Bacardí Legacy Global Champion and work out what they want to get out of the year: what education and experiences they’re after, what are the things that will make them a better bartender and in turn a better human. I then help them plan their best year ever. Then it’s time to start rolling again…