Just a couple days before scoring the penalty that earned a tie against the United States at their first World Cup game, Wales’ soccer star Gareth Bale celebrated becoming a minority shareholder for Welsh whisky distillery Penderyn. By investing in the company, he becomes one of 61 shareholders and also joins the Penderyn team as a global ambassador for the brand.
Gareth Bale reacts after scoring against the USA, Nov. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
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Penderyn CEO Stephen Davies told me why he’s so pleased about the new signing:
“He’s a fantastic elite sportsman and as a Welsh person has more reach than anyone else from Wales as far as we’re aware. So to partner with someone like that is very significant for us. He sees us as a good fit because he’s a premium-level footballer while we’re a premium level product. So it’s two premium brands, in different spheres, supporting one another. It felt like a good thing to do.”
Davies made clear that on top of the investment, Bale is committed on the longer term to feature for Penderyn in ad campaigns and social media posts (Bale has 48+ million followers on Instagram), with a focus on lifestyle and showcasing Penderyn’s and Bale’s passion and commitment to Wales itself. Davies has also teased there may be a special edition Bale-themed whisky in the future as well.
There’s another reason why Bale is a good fit for Penderyn – the distillery currently exports 30% of its whisky across the EU, USA, and China and aims to increase that figure. As an international soccer star currently playing in the MLS, Bale’s fame allows Penderyn to increase brand awareness in those markets.
The partnership between the two began with Penderyn’s longstanding association with the Football Association of Wales (FAW), who were responsible for connecting the distillery with the soccer player. Penderyn regularly provided products for FAW, as well as spirits and tasting events in hospitality lounges for games and other events.
“Not too many people know we’ve been working with the FAW for a while! They made a point of including us as the Wales team became more successful in the last few years” said Davies.
“When the Gareth Bale idea was broached, they were comfortable to connect us because of our longstanding and strong relationship and the awareness that Penderyn is a premium brand.”
So where will Bale’s investment go? The distillery has plenty of plans for the future. Alongside four other Welsh whisky distilleries, an application has been put in to make Welsh single malt whisky a protected Geographical Indication, like Champagne in France (in Welsh, an official Welsh Single Malt Whisky could legally be referred to as ‘Wisgi Cymreig Brag Sengl’ if the application is approved).
Penderyn are also in the process of building a new distillery in Swansea, which will match the output of their main facility in the Brecon Beacons of around 400,000 liters of alcohol production (LPA) a year. This is in addition to the smaller (100,000 LPA) Penderyn distillery in Llandudno which opened last year.
While Bale may be the highest-profile Welshman to get involved in whisky, he’s not the first soccer player, or necessarily the most famous one.
David Beckham, unfortunately now providing sportswashing services for the repressive government of Qatar for large amounts of money, is a brand partner for Diageo’s grain whisky brand Haig Club. Blended whisky brand Chivas Regal had launched a campaign with Manchester United featuring limited edition whisky in 2018. The best (cringiest) of these though may be English footballer Michael Owen’s ads for SPEY whisky from a few years ago.
Hopefully Bale will do a better job.