Retired soccer star David Beckham and the never-idle entrepreneur Simon Fuller are partnering with Diageo to develop and market a premium, single-grain Scotch called Haig Club that “showcases butterscotch and toffee” and is targeted not only to current users but also “those who have always wanted to try whisky.” And have a spare 65 bucks or so to spend on the experience.
“Working alongside Diageo, Beckham and Fuller will play a fundamental role in developing the brand, its strategy and positioning,” according to Diageo. “David Beckham will also lead the promotion of a responsible drinking programme for Haig Club, which is at the heart of the brand.”
At the same time, he will also be trying to broaden its sampling market.
“Whiskey in particular is often seen as a drink for older men with little appeal for women or younger drinkers, but that perception is shifting as companies release new variants — such as Brown-Forman Corp.'s Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey — which are aimed at attracting new customers,” writes Peter Evans in the Wall Street Journal.
“Terms of the partnership — including any equity interest held by Mr. Beckham — weren't disclosed,” Evans reports. He also points out that Fuller, who created the ‘American Idol’ franchise, formerly managed the Spice Girls, of which Beckham's wife, Victoria, is a member. Fuller and Beckham have partnered in a number of other enterprises and the former “has been credited with securing many of the lucrative deals behind Beckham’s £165 million wealth” over the last decade, according to Metro,
On Bloomberg Businessweek, Kyle Stock asks if celebrity can sell whiskey, reminding us of Diageo’s “marketing and profit-sharing deal with rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs for its Cîroc vodka” in 2011 and their recent partnership in buying DeLeon, a high-end tequila house. But “surely, Beckham is better at selling running shoes, swimsuits, or even cologne,” Stock posits.
Then again, booze is a saturated category and Haig Club, which he describes as a “new blend with a ‘fresh, clean style’ — a starter Scotch, if you will,” might indeed benefit from the endorsement of a glam name with an athletic pedigree, handsome face and tats. And Diageo in not one to just throw its money around willy-nilly.
“I would assume that Diageo has done their market research and found that Beckham’s admirers overlap with the consumer segments where they see opportunity for growth,” David Rogers, a branding expert and Columbia Business School professor, tells Stock.
Alcohol Concern, the leading charity in the U.K. working on alcohol issues, took issue with the involvement of Beckham, 38, “a phenom almost from the moment he could first kick a soccer ball” who starred for Manchester United, England, Real Madrid and the L.A. Galaxy before retiring last year, according to Bio.com.
“Given David Beckham’s other roles promoting sport and a healthy lifestyle to children, we believe this will send a confusing message to them about the dangers of alcohol and its impact on a healthy lifestyle and we call on the star to rethink his association with this product,” deputy chief executive Emily Robinson said in a statement.
In response, Diageo said: “We and David Beckham take our responsibility in this area very seriously…. We have always been completely clear in our view that alcohol should only be consumed by adults and we do not want underage drinkers as consumers,” reports Metro.
Yahoo’s Eurosport blog, points out that “it does seem somewhat harsh to be picking on Beckham in this day and age when we have sporting events such as the 'Heineken Cup' and the 'FA Cup with Budweiser' on our screens every year,” and it invites users to weigh in on the fermenting controversy.
Comments cover the gamut, as you might imagine, from “so bloody what?” to “dodgy dave sold his soul a long long time ago.” Then there’s the probably true, “It's not like teenagers will be rushing out to spend £40 a bottle because he is in the adverts!” But will they aspire to?
About that bottle. “Housed in an electric blue square glass bottle with embossed writing, Haig Club appears to take design cues from the aftershave industry, which Beckham is well acquainted with, having put his name to five different fragrances,” Lucy Shaw nails it in The Drinks Business blog.