[dropcap size=small]W[/dropcap]e imagine eyebrows were raised when Johnnie Walker, the world’s most successful whisky brand, showed up on what is essentially a fundraising portal for small, independent entrepreneurs with a great idea (or at least a convincing elevator pitch).

The proposition itself is pretty neat. Sink in some cash, and come away with a bottle of your ‘personalised blend’ Johnnie Walker, which you swizzle up for yourself in an online tool. Zest up your investment with a few additional quid and you get an engraving or display case. Keep adding more (dollar) shots, as the perks pile up accordingly.

The pitch: Here’s what you’re signing up for

What’s intriguing is how exactly parent company Diageo fits into the whole “support indie” ethos of the website. After all, half a year of Diageo’s 2016 takings could comfortably fund all the Indiegogo projects to ever exist since the site went live in 2008. The site’s meant for getting independent companies or creative partnerships off the ground (financially), so it can get down to production without fear of the final products not selling. Surely Diageo does not need such a safety net for a small batch production.

In all likelihood, it is an attempt by the firm’s business development unit, Scotland-based Diageo Futures Team, to explore a new market and business model. Crowdfunding platforms bring with them a sizeable network of mostly millennials who are mostly affluent early adopters, and they’re usually in a shopping mood by the time they’re on the site. Reaching out to such a demographic could simply be part of a long-term plan to build a new consumer base, in a bid to turn Diageo’s recent lacklustre performances around. These platforms also have built-in forms that allow easy customisation and billing options, saving Diageo the trouble of building a microsite from scratch.

Is the drinks company is at least aware of the unorthodox nature of their fundraiser? Likely. A telltale sign: a similar campaign has not appeared on Kickstarter, the largest and most established name in the crowdfunding scene. Projects submitted to this latter platform are subject to much stricter review before approval. Either the project is exclusive to Indiegogo, or its approval process is taking longer – or it’s been thrown out entirely. We’ve reached out to Kickstarter for comment. For now, as of press time, 430 backers have already pledged over US$50,000 to the concept on Indiegogo.


All photos and illustrations originate Indiegogo campaign by the Diageo Futures Team.