Welcome to another instalment of the I Doff my Cap series, in which I will continue to praise and support brand campaigns that have impacted me both personally and professionally.
In this piece, I doff my cap to Haig Club – a variant of Haig whisky – and its partnership with global icon, David Beckham.
A shift in modern marketing
Marketing as we know it is changing and will continue to grow and evolve as time goes on, which is why many brands are incorporating partnerships with celebrities, influencers and other talent as part of their strategy.
With so many brand campaigns shown on both traditional and digital media, it can be hard to make an impact and really stand out from the crowd, especially when launching a new product into an already highly competitive marketplace. Which is why I have huge respect and admiration for Haig as they have managed to achieve both of these objectives simultaneously.
When we think of Haig Club, we think of David Beckham and that is no coincidence. The brand has created a successful and long-lasting partnership with somebody who truly reflects the brand and connects it with its target market.
As part of Diageo, the world’s leading premium drinks business, Haig wanted to change perceptions about its whisky.
Blend it like Beckham
Traditionally, whisky is more commonly found in the cupboards of the older generation, typically targeted at a more mature demographic and almost labelled an ‘old man’s drink’. As it is getting harder to advertise to those over a certain age with many not on some of the newer digital platforms and with most consumers remaining brand loyal throughout their lives, Haig wanted to take a risk and move with the times.
Aiming the product at a younger generation, hoping to attract modern millennials, Haig unveiled Haig Club, a single grain scotch whisky. And it chose to partner with David Beckham, as well as the entrepreneur Simon Fuller, to create the ultimate collaboration.
Although there are a number of Haig whisky variants, everything it does is consistent with the brand’s new look, and it is clear that it’s all about style, taste, sophistication and making a statement.
David Beckham is world-renowned for a great sense of style and is seen as suave, classic and individual, giving him exactly the right profile for a brand partnership aiming, successfully it has since shown, to appeal to a younger crowd.
Using somebody of David Beckham’s profile and status has enabled Haig to reach brand new heights by driving sales and raising brand awareness among an otherwise unengaged demographic. Known worldwide, Beckham has a huge pull in the US, Asia and Europe, thanks to his time playing for a number of world-famous football clubs like Manchester United, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy and Milan and, more recently, starting his own MLS franchise, Inter Miami.
As something of a national treasure as well as a ‘boy next door’ image, Beckham has a down to earth personality that often sees him sharing his flaws with his followers. A lot of men aspire to be him and many women aspire to be with him, so Haig can forge emotional bonds with them all. Securing Beckham as the face of your brand or campaign is as close as you can get to a guaranteed win.
Haig wanted to venture out and reposition themselves, targeting a completely alternate audience. And, as I have mentioned in previous instalments of this series, I respect brands who aren’t afraid to take risks and this is one that has definitely paid off.
Whisky is traditionally sold in brown or clear bottles that usually follow a very similar shape and structure. But Haig went against the grain, altering perceptions of its whisky from old fashioned to a drink for trendy millennials with the use of innovative designs and marketing campaigns.
With the drink now presented in a dark blue glass bottle in a sleek square shape with a copper cork stopper, Haig has quite possibly created the most distinctive bottle of whisky in the world.
Beckham is also known for breaking boundaries and shaking up markets in the sectors in which he works, another reason he is so well-suited to this campaign and the brand as a whole.
Haig have described Haig Club as a drink where “the old-fashioned rules don’t apply”, and I firmly believe that to be true. They had a vision and working alongside Beckham, right from inception through to the final product, they have done the job perfectly.
The original campaign, Haig Club: Welcome, was a television advert directed by Guy Ritchie. It shows Beckham amongst a group of friends, all travelling to the same destination and sharing a glass of the Haig Club whisky.
Throughout the advert, Beckham doesn’t speak and, although this would have been less expensive for the brand compared to using him in a speaking role, it made the advert even more impactful and significant. He didn’t need to say a word. Simply, his presence in the contextual environment alongside friends, holding the bottle and sharing the drink, was more than enough to achieve the desired result.
The use of vintage motorbikes and the picturesque Scottish countryside told the story of the history of Haig perfectly, nodding to their older traditions and values but with a new modern twist to make a simple yet iconic statement.
The campaign was delivered across multiple channels. Using traditional and digital forms of advertising, David Beckham and the big blue bottle were seen in airports and bars as well as on social media and in the press.
The power of partnerships
It is time for businesses to face facts. It is 2020 and we are now living in an increasingly influencer-led world, particularly when it comes to marketing and advertising. With this in mind, brands and businesses alike should consider the benefits of and, indeed, the statistics around collaborating with celebrities, influencers and others in positions of power to persuade.
When somebody like David Beckham endorses a product, his fans and followers almost feel like they know him, so his collaborations come over more like peer-based recommendations due to the levels of trust that have already been established.
Celebrities carry a brand of their own, which in turn reflects on any brand they work with. Therefore, it’s crucial for brands to choose somebody who is perfectly suited, as they will automatically take on the celebrity’s brand value proposition.
As the face of the brand, Beckham is nothing short of authentic. But, although he is by no means a whisky connoisseur, he does have a developing interest in the product. And admittedly, he has previously struggled to really enjoy the drink, much like the consumers Haig Club is targeting.
For campaigns, it’s important for brands to pick more than just a famous face. They need to delve further into their strategic thinking, opting for somebody whose values and ethos are similar to their own.
Ahead of their time
So, I doff my cap to Haig Club and to David Beckham. Haig took a risk and a big one at that. They have successfully transitioned from an older, outdated world of traditional whisky to a newer, cool perfume-sell targeting a much younger, millennial audience.
And, by inviting Beckham to become a partner of the Haig Club, granting him an equity stake as opposed to one-off fees, it has created a strong sense of trust for consumers, which only adds to the longevity of the campaign.
This campaign has stayed at the forefront of my mind for some years and I believe it will continue to do so. In my eyes – and the results prove it – this was a tremendous success for the Haig brand.
It showed that Haig is way ahead of its time and I have no doubt that other brands will decide to follow suit. Watch this space!