Looking to educate consumers about the history, quality and versatility of Puerto Rican rum, the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. has ramped up its use of sponsorship over the last half year, with more deals in the works.

Pridco’s 62-year-old Rums of Puerto Rico program is charged with promoting the country’s major brands, including Bacardi, Don Q and Ron Llave, and maintaining their market share leadership in the U.S.

The sponsorship push coincides with and supports the organization’s first U.S. ad campaign in two years. The campaign—dubbed Reflections— emphasizes the one-year minimum aging requirement and highlights individual brands in addition to the Rums of Puerto Rico umbrella.

The organization is aligning with sports, arts and fashion-centric events primarily in three markets: New York City, Miami and Washington, D.C. The target market: 21-to-35-year-old professionals, with a focus on Hispanics.

Recent ties include February’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City, December ‘09’s Scope Miami art show and presenting status of last September’s Six Metre World Cup sailing event in Newport, R.I. The organization also signed a first-time partnership last summer with the MLB New York Mets.

The partnerships build on an existing portfolio that includes the Miami Rum Renaissance Festival, Washington’s ATP Legg Mason Tennis Classic presented by GEICO, and the BNP Paribas Taste of Tennis—an event that runs in conjunction with the U.S. Open in New York City.

Rums of Puerto Rico also sponsored this month’s women’s pro tennis exhibition BNP Paribas Showdown for the Billie Jean King Cup at New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

“We use sponsorship to generate awareness, and just as importantly, to educate consumers about the history of Puerto Rican rum,” said Javier Figueroa, director of Rums of Puerto Rico.

In addition to reaching trendsetters and gaining pouring rights at sponsored venues, Rums of Puerto Rico also hosts educational seminars for bartenders and wait staff through its partnerships with the Mets, Fashion Week and other properties, said Penny Lerner, executive vice president of AYS Sports Marketing, which owns Taste of Tennis and has been retained by Rums of Puerto Rico to develop sponsorship and activation strategy.

The training activities pay off, Lerner said, noting results from last year’s Legg Mason Tennis Classic. “We brought in brand ambassadors from Puerto Rico, and they got the bartenders excited. Everyone was drinking rum.”

Rums of Puerto Rico further activates by hosting cooking and mixology events, often featuring celebrity chefs.

For example, the organization leveraged Scope Miami by sponsoring a VIP lounge that featured cooking demos and rum mixologists. Activation at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week included two signature drinks crafted by Rums of Puerto Rico rumeliers.

Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. also often splits sponsorships with the Puerto Rico Tourism Co., a public corporation that promotes travel to the island.

The two organizations shared the Mets sponsorship, with PRTC adding an endorsement deal with current free agent and recent Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado, a Puerto Rico native. The two also had co-presenting status of the Six Metre World Cup.

(Read more about sponsorship activity on behalf of foreign tourism organizations here.)