Ahoy! These Famous Pirate Pitchmen Savvy Brand Building
Avast ye! Since 1995, Children and adults alike have celebrated International Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19th by inserting pirate lingo into their daily conversations. Whether referred to as marauders, raiders, buccaneers or any of the many other synonyms, the highly romanticized notion of the pirate goes beyond the annual tradition of working in a few scallywags, landlubbers, and the famous “Arrr!” exclamation into the day’s lexicon. It’s also inspired scores of Hollywood films, team names and mascots across every major sport, and of course, advertising.
So, in honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day, let’s batten down the hatches and take a quick look at some of the more memorable pirate mascots serving double duty as brand ambassadors and filling coffers for publicly traded companies.
Forget Bluebeard, Blackbeard or Captain Kidd. These days, the most famous pirate in the U.S. is undoubtedly Captain Jack Sparrow of the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, which grossed over $4.5 billion worldwide for Walt Disney Company (Tii:DIS). Before Captain Jack Sparrow graced the silver screen, the Pirates of the Caribbean was well-established as a highly successful amusement park ride at Disneyland, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Park at Disneyland Paris, and Shanghai Disneyland. Introduced in 1967 at the original Disneyland in Anaheim, California, the LA Times estimated that the Pirates of the Caribbean ride had seen about 400 million riders by its 50th anniversary.
While not as popular with the kiddos as Jack Sparrow, fellow swashbuckler Captain Morgan may well be Mom and Dad’s pirate of choice after a long day at work. A Diageo plc (Tii:DEO) brand, the Captain Morgan line of rum is the third best-selling in the world, selling nearly 12 million 9-liter cases in 2020, according to market research firm Statista. Standing majestically with a foot perched atop a barrel and sword in hand, the gaudily clad Captain Morgan was named after the 17th-century Welsh privateer, Sir Henry Morgan, who raided Spanish settlements throughout the Caribbean.
Those who grew up with Saturday morning cartoons remember the many Cap’n Crunch commercials fondly. While Cap’n Crunch (short for Horatio Magellan Crunch) is decidedly not a pirate, his one-time nemesis, Jean LaFoote, certainly is. Also known as “The Barefoot Pirate,” LaFoote often attacked Cap’s ship, the SS Guppy, to steal its haul of Cap’n Crunch cereal in 1960s and 1970s commercials. Though the character no longer appears in commercials, LaFoote was popular enough to receive his own cereal brand, Cinnamon Crunch, in the 1970s. Acquired by PepsiCo, Inc. (Tii:PEP) along with the rest of Quaker Oats in 2001 for $14 billion, the Cap’n Crunch brand – whether regular, Crunch Berries, Peanut Butter Crunch or Oops! All Berries – remains a favorite among breakfast cereals.
While undoubtedly not as famous as the other buccaneer-related brands mentioned here, Pirate’s Booty snacks have offered kids a healthier alternative to munch on since 1987. A Hershey Company (Tii:HSY) brand, the Pirate’s Booty line of puffed rice and corn snacks are made with real aged white cheddar cheese without artificial colors or preservatives. Acquired from B&G Foods, Inc. (Tii:BGS) in 2018 for $420 million, it joined Hershey’s more than 90 brands in a massive portfolio that generated more than $2 billion in the second quarter.
Whether you exclaim, “Shiver me timbers!” on International Talk Like a Pirate Day or not, there’s no denying the marketability of these seafaring raiders – many of which have become beloved and iconic brand ambassadors while generating millions for the companies behind them.