Johnnie Walker's Game of Thrones whiskies help drive sales growth for Diageo GB

Johnnie Walker’s tie-up with hit series Game of Thrones helped push sales up 14% for Diageo GB for the last six months of 2018.

The results, for the six months to December 31, 2018, reflect a strong second half of the year, with a good performance from a number of Diageo’s key brands.

The company said Johnnie Walker sales grew by 6% driven by the launch of the limited-edition ‘White Walker by Johnnie Walker’, in collaboration with HBO and Game of Thrones, which was released in the UK in October 2018. The launch resulted in sales of one bottle a minute on Amazon UK in the first 24 hours of it being available.

Other brands in the portfolio also performed strongly.

Dayalan Nayager, managing director, Diageo Great Britain, Ireland and France, said: “We have experienced a very strong half in GB, with net sales up 14% and our key brands, including Guinness, Tanqueray, Gordon’s and Smirnoff, all performing well.”

The continued popularity of gin in the UK is reflected in strong sales for both Tanqueray and Gordon’s, which both delivered double-digit growth over the last six months.

In beer, Nayager said Diageo GB is outperforming the category,

He said: “Guinness delivered net sales growth of 6% and increased its market share, driven by a strong performance from Hop House 13 lager. In December, Guinness was announced as the new title sponsor and official beer of The Six Nations from 2019, reinforcing the Guinness brand’s position as one of rugby’s biggest supporters.

Smirnoff also performed well over the period, aided by summer activity for the brand. 

“Smirnoff returned to growth with net sales increasing 4% despite the category being in decline in GB3. It also cemented its position as the UK’s biggest spirits brand. Summer saw the launch of the ‘Smirnoff Soda Smash’, which encouraged consumers to put a modern twist on the classic vodka and soda.

“We’ve seen a host of exciting activations by our brands over the half. The Guinness Open Gate Brewery opened its doors in London, giving consumers a chance to sample some of Guinness’s unique and innovative beers. We showcased seven of our Reserve brands at London Cocktail Week in October, which saw around 25,000 people attend, and the Baileys Treat Bar Christmas Pop-up returned to London for a second year in a row.”

Diageo GB’s performance is reflected in similar results for the overall parent company for its total global sales.

Diageo reported that half-year net sales grew 5.8% to £6.9 billion, while operating profits rose 11% to £2.4 billion.

The global drinks giant said it would buy back £660 million worth of shares, bringing the total buyback programme to up to £3 billion for the year ending June 30. It recently sold 19 brands to Sazerac for net proceeds of approximately £340 million after tax and transaction costs.