Diageo readies launch of new whisky under David Beckham’s Haig Club

Diageo is set to launch a new whisky under the Haig Club brand, which The Drum understands will be aimed at a younger audience new to whisky who are looking to drink the spirit with a mixer.

A spokeswoman for the drinks giant confirmed the news and said that details of the “outstanding new whisky” will be released later this year, however no information around timings of the launch were revealed.

The new whisky will be sold a lower price point, according to a source with knowledge of the launch, who added that the original Haig Club’s £45 price tag had been identified by Diageo as a barrier to purchase for some drinkers. Since its debut in 2012, sales of the brand have been sporadic, according to data seen by The Drum, with the company's travel retail head Doug Bagley forced to defend apparent price drops of Haig Club last October.

“We are excited to be unveiling a new whisky from Haig Club later this year," addd the spokeswoman. "Our continued innovation and investment in the brand comes off the back of its good performance, strong liquid and brand identity. Sales and distribution of Haig Club are growing in GB, as we continue our work to innovate in this vibrant category."

With the suggestion of lacklustre sales somewhat surprsing given the involvement of football icon David Beckham, could it actually be that brand Beckham is failing to resonate with the core whisky audience? “With Haig Club, they’ve really ignored the brand story all together and focussed on David Beckham, so the Haig Club pretty much just means David Beckham to most people,” Roger Perowne, managing director of consultancy firm Morar, told The Drum. “[It is the] potential to have his lifestyle but in quite a faux way, it’s a bit like the difference between Chanel perfume and Katie Price’s new perfume. David Beckham may be a bit better than Katie Price but it’s not really playing on what truly drives the core market in the long term which is something a little more timeless than the celebrity of the moment.”

The unexpected alignment of an alcoholic drink with a sports star could also be a factor in the brand’s performance, given that it is a pairing not usually associated with health conscious Beckham.

“When I first saw this campaign it was difficult for me to reconcile the practically tee total sport and fashion icon aligned to his own brand of whisky,” Erminia Blackden, strategy director of Partners Andrews Aldrige luxury division Cocoon told The Drum, who added that Alcohol Concern’s complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that Beckham’s presence would have a strong appeal to under 18s might have contributed to weak sales.

“The controversy around the campaign potentially encouraging under-age drinking might not have helped either. Beckham reportedly earns more since his 2013 retirement from football than when he was a highly-paid player at some of the world's biggest clubs. As his brand expands along with his bank account, I wonder if some of the basic values which have underpinned the brand Beckham have now been stretched too.”

“But don’t blame it all on Beckham, the product could be at fault too. Haig Club is clearly a brand which is aspiring to masstige. Diageo has clearly used visual cues from the perfume sector (the bottle, the endorsement) to drive reach, but maybe this is part of the problem too. Whisky is not a young person’s drink here in the UK so it’s difficult to see why this proposition, promoted in this way would appeal.”

To date advertising and promotion of the brand has been focussed on the footballer with Haig Club’s inaugural campaign starring Beckham as well as a series of print adverts featuring him raising a glass. While the marketing strategy for the new venture is yet to be announced it is likely Beckham will still remain central to its campaign activity, according to Perowne.

“They might almost double down [on Beckham] and say the problem is we have been targeting a new whisky drinker, younger with a more of a lifestyle brand. It’s not a bad idea… but I do think the price point may have been a barrier, asking people to pay £45 for a new lifestyle brand just because it's well packaged and to do with David Beckham. They have positioned it pricing wise against good whiskies whereas I don’t think their audience is drinking good scotch so I think that possibly was a mistake. It could be that a repositioning of price could help and a focus on mixers could help and compete more directly with the likes of Jack Daniels.”

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.