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Legionář rum renamed Heffron: misstep causes rebranding chaos

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When the second largest Czech distiller Palírna U Zeleného stromu launched its new competitive brand to take on the growing rum trend, it seems that the decision to use Legionář was made without proper market research. The brewery Kolčavka already had a beer on the market with the same name. Although the businesses are not in the same category, an extensive debate, negotiation and possible court case would be needed to move forward. The distiller decided to rebrand the rum, which happened to be during the busy Christmas holiday season.

Jan Sedláček, the Brand Manager for Palírna U Zeleného stromu offered the following explaination: “As part of the standard process for examining the registration of a trademark, namely “Legionář,” the possibility of registration was confirmed in the spirits category, that is to say, alcoholic beverages, except beer. However, we have been asked by a third party using the same name in a category other than spirits to suspend our registration.”

The distiller reacted quickly by renaming the rum Heffron, creating and printing new sticker labels for the bottles out in the field. There are reports of them changing the labels even at customer’s warehouses. The story of the rum was/is an interesting one. During the First World War, the Czechoslovak Legion was fighting for Austria-Hungary on the Eastern Front in Russia. As the war turned into a revolution, and then civil war, the legion was caught in Siberia, often fighting against the Bolsheviks. After an admirable march across Russia, they were rescued by several countries who supported the newly created state of Czechoslovakia, which the legionnaires are credited with making possible. The distillery references that legion to gain access to emotion of the 30th anniversary of freedom and 100 year anniversary of the republic, and to compete with the successful “Republic” rum brand from Stock. The fallback was “Heffron” the name of a boat that transported some of the Legionnaires home.

The spirit itself is not Czech production, as is the case with Stock. The Heffron rums are imported from Panama (where the boat was registered) and have several categories of ageing etc.

Sedlacek further stated that even with the problems with the labels and brand, the sales fulfilled the plans; interest from consumers is ahead of expectations.

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