Any old alcohol brand can sponsor a sports event or an arena, but Captain Morgan spiced rum has found a more unique opportunity: the underwater exploration of a ship thought to belong to Admiral Sir Henry Morgan – the rum brand’s notorious namesake – that sunk off the coast of Panama in 1671 along with four other ships.
The announcement that Morgan’s flagship, the Satisfaction, had been found by a team of divers and archaeologists led by Texas State University was made earlier this month, while Captain Morgan parent Diageo sent out its own press release announcing its sponsorship of the project. But Captain Morgan offered a grant to the archaeologists last September, after the team recovered six iron cannons from a nearby site also believed to be from one of Morgan's ships and additional funding was needed to explore the surrounding sites.
Captain Morgan called the sponsorship opportunity “a natural fit” and did not miss the chance to drive its brand message home: “Captain Henry Morgan was a natural-born leader with a sense of adventure and an industrious spirit that the brand embraces today," said Tom Herbst, Brand Director, Captain Morgan USA.
Captain Morgan’s sponsorship of an underwater archaeological project is not the first such corporate venture– Sony and Intel sponsored Project Shiphunt earlier this year to allow a group of Michigan high school students to discover an historic sunken ship in The Great Lakes using Sony VAIO laptops – but it is garnering some powerful publicity, with most stories about the find prominently mentioning the rum and its sponsorship of the watery dig.
The discovery is fueling interest in the reality behind the historical Admiral Morgan’s image. The Welsh privateer (or pirate, depending on your point of view) was hired by the British government to protect Caribbean trade routes. Later, he became lieutenant governor of Jamaica and died a natural death in 1688.
"He was probably the most successful [privateer] to enjoy his ill-gotten gains," Dominique Rissolo, executive director of the Waitt Institute, a nonprofit research organization based in La Jolla, Calif., told ABC News. “He died a rich and inebriated man.”
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum, indeed!