Addis Ababa – Athlete Haile Gebrselassie recently signed a one-year agreement with Diageo, the maker of Johnnie Walker whiskey, to make a new commercial advertisement.
Haile is said to be paid close to $100,000 for the one-year contract, less the 15% commission that his Dutch agent Jos Herman will collect. Haile will also be taxed in Britain and Ethiopia.
Ethiopia imports 100,000 cases of Diageo’s brands, including Smirnoff, Baileys, and Guinness, making it the fourth largest African market for Diageo, following South Africa, Nigeria and Angola.
Haile’s decision to do the commercial ad has sparked controversy, with one group arguing that athletes such as Haile, who are regarded as role models by many in Ethiopians, should not associate themselves nor advertise alcoholic beverages as their actions could have adverse effect on the country’s youth. On the other hand, there are those who feel that Haile is free to do what he pleases and that he should not be held accountable for the youth’s behavior or action.
ETV’s Policy on Alcohol Ad
Haile’s ad will not be shown on Ethiopian Television (ETV), which follows the country’s laws prohibiting the broadcastings of commercials for cigarettes and beverages with greater alcoholic content.
The following are quotes that appeared on yesterday’s edition of the Addis-based Addis Fortune newspaper.
John Lloyd, new business venture director for Diageo Great Britain Ltd:
“I cannot begin to express how proud we at Diageo are to have Haile Gebrselassie associated with Johnnie Walker.
“He is truly an inspiration to us all,” Lloyd told the room full of people invited to the launching of the commercial featuring Haile, the first African personality to be selected by the company to promote its flagship brand, Johnnie Walker.
Hugh Pile, marketing manager of Johnnie Walker for Africa
“This isn’t about whisky, although we want to sell whisky,” he said at the launch. “It is the emotional concept of walking and progress.”
Brook Worku, Diageo’s country director for Ethiopia:
“He is a true living legend,” said.
Commercial Ad Photo Caption
“He used to run to class,” proclaims an imposing life-size photograph of Haile taken against the backdrop of a mountainous landscape with Jimma River meandering out of sight. “Now he runs for gold!”
“I was greatly honoured when Johnnie Walker approached me this year to be a partner.”
“I particularly like the message, ‘Keep Walking,’” he said. “I concur with their instructions of not letting children under the age of 18 consume it, and those older to be responsible with their intake.”
Worku Biklia, former Ethiopian distance runner:
Haile Gebrselassie is a role model for the sports family and his decision to sign up for the deal does not “match with his personality”.
“I am not feeling good to see him on that advertisement,” Worku said.
A self declared admirer of Haile:
“I cannot possibly imagine him with liquor,” said a self declared admirer of Haile who is in close association with Johnnie Walker brands. “I believe it is wrong for an athlete to be identified with a product that is not whole and hearty.”
Read full report on Addis Fortune