Rugby legends flying high with proudly Cape brandy venture ... win a bottle

Published Oct 18, 2023


WITH Rugby World Cup excitement reaching its pinnacle, Springbok legend John Smit and his recently launched proudly South African VSOP Avante Potstill Brandy, appears to be a big game player in the international spirits field.

This is something that you may hear with a lot of new brands on the market, but what makes Avante truly unique is that Smit leads a team of like-minded investors from the rugby world that all contribute to the forward-thinking nature of the brandy. With international stars like George Gregan, Justin Marshall, Jean De Villiers, Butch James, CJ Stander and Makazole Mapimpi from the “starting line-up”, Avante is looking to package the spirit of the game in more ways than one.

“As rugby players, we’ve all faced challenges in our career, and the nature of the game has meant that we have all had to move forward with these and never try avoid them,” says Smit, who has taken a natural leadership role in this venture.

With this unique coming together of players, Avante customers in turn get unique opportunities to engage with the players and even attend in-person events. Purchase of product makes them eligible for membership to the Avante Guarde, a platform the players are keen to develop to naturally build brand loyalty and to also formalise the unique brotherhood that a sport such as rugby creates.

So far there have been two online events where Avante Guarde members have been able to enjoy a panel discussion around Rugby World Cup happenings with the players, with special prizes given away to the early brand adopters – ranging from signed bottles of Avante Brandy all the way through to winning tickets and flights to the RWC 2023 quarter-finals. A clear indication from the brand and the players that they mean business with their customer base. The first in-person event where the first (and second) bottle of Avante VSOP was enjoyed took place at the Whisky Vault Club in Gauteng, with John Smit and a small group of traditional whisky connoisseurs. Along with being deeply impressed with the product, the group got to enjoy Smit giving his view on the current Springboks, the French, the All Blacks and what it felt like to belt out the national anthem before a game.

With the global nature of the initial customer base, and a concentration of rugby fans in France, the first main Avante Guarde event is set to take place in Paris on October 25 on the eve of the Rugby World Cup Final.

Though we are in a rugby whirlwind right now, and the attraction for customers to meet up with stars like Smit and the other big names of the Avante team, one other name has become an integral part of the launch of the brand, Caylen Venter, a young rugby player from Bloemfontein who is fighting against a rare form of cancer that is threatening to end an aspiring career in the game.

Avante had an initial plan for sharing proceeds of all sales to young player development, along with post-playing career support with Smit at the helm. But in the case of Caylen and his immediate need for support, it was decided that all initial charitable proceeds will go to him. For extra inspiration during this trying time for the youngster, Avante has arranged for him to watch his heroes play in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals in Paris, along with meeting some of them while he is in France.

On the business side of things, it was decided to make the brand available with a unique pre-launch phase online. From this, the retail and distribution partner response for Avante has been overwhelming. Norman Goodfellows has been chosen as the official launch partner for 2023 in SA, with their nationwide outlets being the first to stock the brand in store and online.

There will also be initial distribution in the UK via the world-renowned Trevethan Distillery and also on the ground via rugby networks in France. With a partnership with Liquidity, an established importer distributor in SA, to drive the SA business as well as exports.

There have also been approaches by distributors in the US and Netherlands to take on the product and Justin Marshall is looking at taking the brand even further afield to New Zealand.

To be a part of this exciting new brand, and not only enjoy the fine Cape-made VSOP but to also be a part of the Avante Guarde and future meet-ups with Smit and his team, visit your nearest Norman Goodfellows store.

* The Star is offering 10 lucky readers an opportunity to each win a bottle of Avante VSOP Cape Brandy valued at R500 each. All you have to do is answer the following question: What does the acronym VSOP mean?

Send your answers to [email protected] followed by your name, surname and cellphone number. Ts&Cs apply.

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