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Abanti Sankaranarayanan

In India, Captain Morgan isn't just the goateed rapscallion who resides on rum bottles. He's also the host of an MTV reality show, Captain's Shack, in which a group of contestants compete to take over a popular resort area's beach bar. But this isn't just gratuitous product placement (though it is certainly that)--it's also about the only way Abanti Sankaranarayanan can get her brand onto TV. India should be a liquor marketer's dream: 19 million people reach the legal drinking age (in most states, 25) every year, and its growing middle class is interested in Western products. But it's illegal to use traditional print and TV ads to sell alcohol. So Sankaranarayanan, who oversees global spirits giant Diageo's Indian business, says creativity is a must: "The easiest thing is to go and sponsor someone else's event, but we don't do that. We create our own." That's included "silent night" dance parties for Smirnoff vodka, where revelers used headphones to listen to live DJs, and a Willy Wonka-style golden-ticket campaign for Johnnie Walker surrounding the first-ever Formula One event in India last fall. "We have the analytics for what's worked," she says. "But India is one of those markets that's evolving so quickly, you have to trust your instincts."