Will Irish Rugby Follow Whiskey Route

Scotch and Irish Whiskey, note the Irish spelling, are in a continual battle for dominance across international markets. Now the stakes have been raised with Johnnie Walker announcing a major partnership with Scottish Rugby.

The brand is to become the Official Whisky Partner, with the Scottish spelling, of Scottish Rugby and the Official Whisky of the Scotland Rugby team.

As well as pop-up bars within the grounds, Johnnie Walker will also be creating bespoke brand experiences, giving home and away supporters a taste of Scotland on international match days.

The Scottish Rugby partnership completes a strong roster of cultural associations for Johnnie Walker in Edinburgh as the brand prepares to open its global flagship visitor attraction in the city’s Princes Street in 2020. This will mark a major celebration of the 200th anniversary of the brand.

It was recently announced as Official Whisky Partner of Edinburgh Fringe and the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and for the second-year running will play host to Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party.

Jameson has been among the more active brands in terms of sponsorship but there is no Whiskey partnership with any of the major sporting organisations here. This may trigger a rethink.

Johnnie Walker is part of the Diageo family of brands. Guinness is already the official Beer of Scottish and of Irish Rugby as well as a major player in World Rugby as the sponsor of the Guinness Six Nations.

It exited the Irish Whiskey market in 2015 when selling the Bushmills Brand but two years later it announced a €25 Million investment in building a new distillery to create a new Roe & Co whiskey honouring the founding father of Irish whiskey George Roe. That gives a symmetry with the Guinness brand and if the Scottish link up performs well then there is the potential for Irish Rugby to benefit through a new partnership as well.

“In recent years we have taken a global approach to promoting Scottish Rugby in Asia, United States and across Europe and in doing so can provide a great platform for our partners to share in our experiences beyond our shores,” said Dominic McKay, COO of Scottish Rugby.

It is not too big a stretch to imagine similar words from Philip Browne in the near future.


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