Will Haig Club miss Brand Beckham? Marketers argue the case
After nearly a decade in partnership, David Beckham exits as Haig Club ambassador to launch own brand.
Haig Club Clubman is the official whisky of David Beckham’s Inter Miami / Haig Club
‘Think of Haig Club and you think of David Beckham’ is a statement likely to be erased from the whiskey’s own website. But it raises a pertinent question, what is the brand without the guidance of its founding ambassador?
Partnership hits the rocks
Last week, Diageo announced David Beckham had left the partnership he helped launch in 2014 to instead pursue an independent drinks venture. The move by Beckham follows a growing trend for celebrities to own their own alcohol brands, moving away from the ambassador model, with the likes of Ryan Reynolds, George Cloney and even Kylie Minogue setting up shop.
Entering the market with a bang, its first TV campaign was directed by Guy Richie and created by adam&eveDDB. ‘The Welcome’ featured Beckham and a clan of well-dressed friends who travel the Scottish Highlands to meet at a country house.
Two years after launch, Diageo introduced the ‘Clubman’ product with a lower price point in a bid to appeal to younger whisky drinkers. Clubman’s first TV spot ‘Make Your Own Rules’ was in direct contrast to its Scottish Highlands campaign and showed Beckham in the midst of the city nightlife surrounded by young ravers.
Style over substance?
“It felt like a fashion brand, especially with the distinctive blue bottle, so the combination of Beckham with that was undeniably strong. But that can also be taken as style over substance,” Sally Tarbit, director and brand activation lead at creative branding and communications agency The Team.
“When it comes to whisky and single grain, that’s a very bold move in the world of whisky where provenance and quality are usually so important.”
While Tarbit acknowledged Haig Club did well to position the brand as “aspirational” and a “modern classic”, she says it wasn’t “relatable”.
“Whisky got lost, as did making sense of ‘the Club’. With a premium positioning, it was always strange to go into the supermarket and see the price point for Haig Club, which seemed to be on offer more often than not.”
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Its ads were also “forgettable” she says.
“Beckham was asking you to ‘make your own rules’. This feels like an idea that hasn’t properly taken flight, within the ads and certainly in relation to its figurehead,” Tarbit says. “David Beckham is not a notorious rulebreaker and maker, he’s a compliant and clean-nosed rule follower.”
Challenged the status quo
For William Blackett, executive vice president of consumer at Savanta, Beckham helped Diageo reach “younger and style-conscious” consumers who had been neglected by whisky marketing.
“Whisky is traditionally consumed ‘straight up’, by men, on low-energy occasions. But, Haig Club’s advertising challenged the status quo,” Blackett says. And The Haig Club Clubman’s ‘Make your own rules’ creative with Beckham communicated this the best, Blackett adds.
Beckham has done a “great job at building the brand’s awareness and familiarity,” Blackett argues. "However, I suspect he has taken it as far as he can. Diageo is famous for building brands and it has carved out a distinctive positioning for Haig that complements its whisky portfolio and reaches a new customer. So, Haig will be just fine without Beckham."
It remains to be seen what Beckham will launch. Will it compete with the Haig Club and furthermore, how does that brand fill its Beckham-sized hole?