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Case Study: Bundaberg Road to Recovery

Client: Bundaberg Distilling Company
Agency: Leo Burnett Sydney
Award: Nomination, Direct Integrated Campaigns, 2014


In March 2013, Bundaberg Rum turned a disaster zone into a tourist destination giving the town of Bundaberg, Queensland a much-needed economic boost after the worst flood in its history displaced more than 7,000 people and made uninhabitable at least 1,200 homes. As Bundaberg's oldest resident, it wanted to help the place that gave it its name at a time of crisis.

How did they do it? Watch the Bundaberg Case Study film here.

Bundaberg Rum, owned by Diageo, is one of Australia’s best-known brands with a long history of producing limited edition products which are highly sought after by loyal fans.

Two years earlier, it launched ‘Watermark’ – a limited edition whisky produced to raise money for flood relief victims of the January 2011 Queensland floods – supported by a campaign by Leo Burnett Sydney built around music festivals in 16 of the state’s worst-effect towns. On sale nationally, the first run of ‘Watermark’ rum sold out within a week.

When floods hit the city of Bundaberg again in January 2013, the fear was public support would be diluted by compassion fatigue – a major challenge in developing and executing the campaign to support the launch of Bundaberg’s follow-up flood relief rum, ‘Road to Recovery’.

Case Study: Bundaberg Rum Road to Recovery D&AD

“When we visited Bundaberg within days of the second flood we found it was even worse than 2011 with 70% of the city flooded and many people tested mentally and physically by the fact the homes and businesses affected had only recently been re-built,” says Leo Burnett executive creative director Vince Lagan.

There were many challenges.

“Perhaps the greatest was what more could we do? How could we deepen interest by personalising it more, without the people affected by the flood feeling their misery was somehow being exploited?” Leo Burnett executive creative director Grant McAloon adds. “But there was also the fact we had to turn everything around in just three weeks.” 

The Creative Idea:

The ‘Road to Recovery’ campaign revolved around a special limited edition rum - each bottle of which carried the name of a flood-affected street to personalise the crisis. Available only in person from the distillery on a single day, the launch was intended to bring thousands of people to the town with all sales from the limited edition rum going towards flood relief.

“Bundaberg Rum is a brand with many fans, but we needed to reach beyond this community so the approach we took was more like a tourism campaign,” says McAloon.

Case Study: Bundaberg Rum Road to Recovery D&AD
Case Study: Bundaberg Rum Road to Recovery D&AD

The Preparation:

Work began on developing the rum, with Leo Burnett was closely involved in the design of the bottle, name and label. “The desire to make the flood’s after-affects more personal led to personalising the bottles – something Bundaberg had not done before,” explains McAloon. Each bottle made direct reference to one of the 171 flood-affected streets.

The next step was to devise a launch supported by brand-themed marketing that would inspire people to visit Bundaberg and participate.

Bundaberg Distilling Company is used to staging events, but the agency believed it was important to involve as many local businesses as possible so it developed a portfolio of branded materials to promote themselves and ‘Road to Recovery’ for all those participating.

A Bundaberg Rum Road to Recovery Guide for those driving to the city for the weekend of the festivities was also produced.

Case Study: Bundaberg Rum Road to Recovery D&AD

Finally, Leo Burnett organised hotel bookings and special flights, then set about filling them via social media, TV, print and posters plus location-specific billboards and TV to highlight not just flood-affected streets but the people who lived on them. Traditional advertising was needed to extend the campaign’s reach beyond brand fans. ‘All roads lead to Bundaberg’ was the advertising’s creative theme.

“It all happened extremely quickly because we had to capitalise on people’s interest while news about the flood was still fresh,” says McAloon.

“The danger was that the longer it took, the fewer people would be inclined to visit. The short time frame was a major challenge. Our advantage was a brilliant client used to fast decision-making with total trust in what we were doing.”

Case Study: Bundaberg Rum Road to Recovery D&AD

The Execution:

More than 6,000 people visited Bundaberg for the launch on March 16 2013 when 8,000 bottles of ‘Road to Recovery’ went on sale, each priced at $60AUS a bottle. No hotel was left empty and specially commissioned tour buses took visitors around local businesses – all of which adopted the campaign’s ‘Road to Recovery’ branding. Each flood-affected house received one bottle free.

Case Study: Bundaberg Rum Road to Recovery D&AD

The Response:

Bundaberg Distilling Company aimed to raise $250k for local flood recovery through 'Road to Recovery' in addition to the $200k donation it had already made to the Red Cross Queensland Flood Appeal to support state-wide efforts. Sales of the limited edition rum raised $300k.

The campaign resulted in the biggest weekend for tourism the town of Bundaberg had ever seen with an estimated $2.5mAUS pumped into the struggling local economy by visitors spending their money with local shops and other local businesses.

The initiative generated 169 pieces of media coverage representing an estimated $1mAUS in PR with a total reach exceeding 7.5m people.

If you think you have a campaign that deserves a Pencil, enter your work into the D&AD Awards and see if our judges agree. When it comes to awards, nothing matters more.

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