Major Lazer’s Jillionaire has a new gig as Bacardí’s “Minister of Rum,” with responsibilities that include music initiatives and “throwing cool parties around the world,” the producer and DJ tells Variety. A series of summer concerts that reinforce “The Sound of Rum” and Major Lazer’s own custom blend of spirits in a collectible bottle are the hallmarks of the campaign.
With bandmates Diplo and Walshy Fire, “We worked with them on creating a music program, which is going to be signified by the new single we have coming out,” says Jillionaire. The new tune, designated as “The Sound of Rum,” will officially be unveiled this Friday at a Bacardí and Major Lazer “friends and family” bash on a private beach in Miami. The event is the kickoff for what will be a series of Bacardi-sponsored summer performance events by Major Lazer distinct from their regular tour schedule.
Though he didn’t want to crash a spoiler on the debut, Major Lazer teased a new song, “Know No Better” (featuring Camilla Cabello, Travis Scott and Quavo) at the Hangout Music Festival in Alabama on Sunday that immediately accrued comments like “song of the summer!” on social media.
“Every brand wants to have a place in music,” says Liz Walaszczyk, global head of music at Bacardi. “The Sound of Rum is Bacardí with a beat.” Or Major Lazer with a flavor. The group traveled to the company’s distillery in Puerto Rico, and worked with maestro de rum Manny Oliver to create Bacardí Major Lazer Limited Edition Rum, available in the U.S. for $19.99 in mid-June and in select international markets in September.
The Lazer trio “went into the lab and did two or three different mixtures, and then taste tests,” Jillionaire explains. The result is described by Bacardí as “a blend of light and heavy dark rums, aged two to three years, and featuring notes of tropical fruit, cedar almonds and vanilla” and summarized by Jillionaire as “pretty delicious.”
Jillionaire, whose real name is Christopher Leacock hails from Trinidad. Walsh is from Jamaica, and Diplo from Florida, all three drenched in tropical culture. Jilli considers rum as much a part of his heritage as the Caribbean soca and dancehall beats that influence Major Lazer’s music. “Growing up in the islands, I worked in bars for many years learning how to master the perfect rum cocktail. It’s a big part of the culture, and something I’m passionate about,” he says.
The campaign, which runs for a year, kicks off tonight (May 24) in Berlin at the annual Bacardí Legacy Cocktail competition. There, Jillionaire will officially assume his ministerial duties, unveiling the new Major Lazer Limited Edition Rum bottle. A cocktail program that the group developed with the manufacturer will be introduced to U.S. audiences over the summer.
Working with an annual marketing budget of approximately $50 million, according to Kantar Media, Bacardí brings a lot of clout to the party. “Bacardí has a strong track record in music, executing at global festivals,” Walaszczyk says of the association, which was announced in January. “This is a true collaborative partnership across the board, where we’ll get to pick their brains. It’s not a typical promotion.” The company actually advertised the Minister of Rum position as part of a nationwide job search, with responsibilities that include “Extensive global travel” and “a strong command of the digital and social media space.”
The Major Lazer sound, as well as the fireworks, dancing and beach props that are hallmarks of their live shows, make them natural brand partners, the DJ Jillions explains. “Our saying is ‘make the world smaller by making the party bigger.’ This is all about enjoying summer with your friends, and ways to do that with music and a nice rum cocktail.”