Just days before scoring the penalty to tie the United States in their first World Cup match, Wales footballer Gareth Bale celebrated becoming a minority shareholder of Welsh whiskey distillery Penderyn. By investing in the company, he becomes one of the 61 shareholders and also joins the Penderyn team as a global brand ambassador.
Penderyn CEO Stephen Davies told me why he is so happy with the new signing:
“He’s a fantastic top athlete and as a Welshman has more reach than anyone else from Wales as far as we know. So to work with someone like that is really important for us. He sees us as a good match because he’s a top footballer , while we are a top product. So it’s two premium brands, in different spheres, supporting each other. It felt like a good thing to do.”
Davies made it clear that, in addition to the investment, Bale has a longer-term commitment to appearing for Penderyn in ad campaigns and social media posts (Bale has over 48 million followers on Instagram), with a focus on lifestyle and living out the passion of Penderyn and Bale. and devotion to Wales itself. Davies has also teased that there may also be a Bale-themed special edition whiskey in the future.
There’s another reason why Bale is a good fit for Penderyn: the distillery currently exports 30% of its whiskey to the EU, US and China and is aiming to increase that figure. As an international soccer star currently playing in the MLS, Bale’s notoriety allows Penderyn to increase brand awareness in those markets.
The collaboration between the two began with Penderyn’s longstanding association with the Football Association of Wales (FAW), who were responsible for connecting the distillery to the footballer. Penderyn regularly provided products for FAW, as well as spirits and tastings in hospitality lounges for games and other events.
“Not too many people know that we have been working with the FAW for a while! They made it a point to get us involved as the Wales team has become more successful in recent years,” said Davies.
“When Gareth Bale’s idea came up, they felt comfortable connecting us because of our longstanding and strong relationship and understanding that Penderyn is a premium brand.”
So where is Bale’s investment going? The distillery has plenty of plans for the future. An application has been made alongside four other Welsh whiskey distilleries to make Welsh Single Malt Whiskey a Protected Geographical Indication, like Champagne in France (in Welsh, an official Welsh Single Malt Whiskey may be legally designated as ‘Wisgi Cymreig Brag Sengl’ if the application is approved).
Penderyn is also building a new distillery in Swansea, which will match the output of their main facility in the Brecon Beacons of approximately 400,000 liters of alcohol production (LPA) per annum. This is in addition to the smaller (100,000 LPA) Penderyn Distillery in Llandudno which opened last year.
While Bale is perhaps the most famous Welshman to dabble in whisky, he is not the first footballer, nor necessarily the most famous.
David Beckham, who unfortunately now provides high-cost sports washing services to the repressive government of Qatar, is a brand partner of Diageo’s Haig Club grain whiskey brand. Blended whiskey brand Chivas Regal had launched a campaign in 2018 with Manchester United featuring limited edition whisky. Perhaps the best (creepest) of these are English footballer Michael Owen’s advertisements for SPEY whiskey from a few years ago.
Hopefully Bale does better.