David Beckham, (probably not) yesterday

David Beckham, (probably not) yesterday

As one would expect, yesterday's news that Diageo is teaming up with model/team franchise investor/Jaguar brand ambassador/'celebrity' husband/retired footballer David Beckham got the wires burning red hot. So much so, that the partnership even warranted a kicking from alcohol issue charity Alcohol Concern this morning.

At first glance, Diageo's use of David Beckham to develop and promote not only a new product – Haig Club – but also a (relatively speaking) new category – single grain Scotch whisky – looked to me like a wasted opportunity. Throw in the fact that the new Scotch will be priced at between GBP40 (US$67) and GBP60 per bottle rather than the über-premium end of the market – Beckham is globally recognised, especially in many emerging markets – and the whole thing looks like good money being thrown after bad.

On reflection, however, that's not entirely fair, for two reasons.

Diageo has been canny in nailing down what I believe is an equity deal with Beckham, along similar lines to its hugely successful partnership with Sean Combs for the Ciroc vodka brand. The deal, initially unveiled in 2007, saw Ciroc's profits split 50/50 between Diageo and Combs. While Diageo is “not revealing any terms of the agreement”, I would expect the Beckham deal to run along similar lines.

This works well for Diageo: Giving him a cut of the profits of a new product is far wiser than giving Beckham a barrel-load of cash merely to be 'the face' of an existing brand as part of a campaign.

Then, there is the huge boost that Beckham's profile could – and should – give to the fledgling single grain Scotch whisky category. Back in October, William Grant & Sons made quite a fanfare about its entry into single grain Scotch with the launch of The Girvan Patent Still 25 Year Old. The move was widely hailed as a brave and dynamic one by industry observers.

The arrival of Diageo's offering in Haig Club is reason enough to get excited about the sub-category. The added profile of David Beckham is nothing less than a liberal sprinkling of gold dust for single grain Scotch.