Stop Trying to Make Rum and Pepsi Happen

Even a clever ad campaign can’t make Pepsi the call cola at the bar

August 3, 2023 1:09 pm
rum and pepsi ad campaign with captain morgan label
Would you ever order a "rum and Pepsi"?
Pepsi / Alma

If you’re a human who surfs the net, you’ve probably seen Pepsi’s undying attempts to try and make “rum and Pepsi” happen. I’ve been watching this unfold closely these last few weeks, waiting in the wings to see how far they could actually take the attempt. And after I was sent their latest “Better With Pepsi” campaign yesterday, it’s time to say the inevitable: rum and Pepsi is never going to happen. 

This latest campaign highlights the Pepsi logo disguised in Captain Morgan and Bacardi labels, and while clever, I can’t see how it could ever change anyone’s mind about which cola to pair with rum. Think about it: whether you want to admit it or not, you’ve probably ordered or, at the very least, drank a “Captain and Coke” in your day. No one in the history of the world has ever asked the bartender for a “Captain and Pepsi,” unless they are unhinged in a real way. As for Bacardi, they jumped on the rum and Coke bandwagon very early in the game.

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To understand the rum and Coke is to know it by its classic name, the Cuba Libre. As the story goes, the drink was created in early 1900s Havana after the Spanish-American War. A U.S. Army captain living in the city was celebrating the recent victory at a bar, and he added Coca-Cola and lime to his rum, raising his glass and toasting with “Por Cuba Libre!,” or “to a free Cuba!” We can’t be sure if Bacardi was actually the spirit used in this cocktail history lesson, but that didn’t stop the brand from claiming that it was their rum in the fizzy drink. A century of Bacardi’s robust marketing efforts aside, it’s quite possible that their rum was in the drink, as it was a popular brand around the time of Cuban independence.

When I first saw the ad campaign, I thought to myself, “this must be a stunt to get people talking. There’s no way Pepsi thinks that it can become what Coke is to rum. Maybe I’m the idiot for even writing about this and giving them publicity.” But according to Adweek, Pepsi chief marketing officer Todd Kaplan said, “A big goal of this campaign was not just to elevate the awareness of #RumAndPepsi as the optimal cocktail combination, but also to get consumers to try one for themselves.” 

I’m sure that some of you out there prefer Pepsi over Coke (thoughts and prayers), but even if that’s so, there’s no denying that Coke will always be more popular — no matter how much money Pepsi spends to make it not so. Coca-Cola invented Santa Claus as we know him, for goodness sake. No one can come for the rum and Coke.


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