On the afternoon of Saturday 23 January 2010, in front of a packed Old Trafford crowd there to witness the Manchester United FC vs. Hull City AFC English Premier League game, the identity of the third annual Robert Burns International Foundation Sponsor of the Year was revealed: Diageo Hungary Ltd.
The award is officially called the Ferenc Puskás – Sir Alex Ferguson Sponsor of the Year Trophy. It features a football crafted from copper, made by a Scottish artist and presented to Erzsébet Puskás in honour of her late husband, the legendary Hungarian footballer, and was handed over to Attila Erdei, the Commercial Manager for Diageo in Hungary and Croatia, by Sir Alex, the Honorary President of the RBIF.
Diageo, headquartered in Budapest on Soroksári út, has been involved with the Burns Supper for more than a decade. Supper Chairman Stuart McAlister explained what it was that made the drinks firm such champion sponsors, worthy of recognition in Manchester United’s Theatre of Dreams stadium.
“Diageo typically provides 70 bottles of Johnny Walker whisky for the Burns Supper, as well as two bottles of malt whisky for the auction/raffle. The company also provides a whisky tasting promotion every year, with the help of Csaba Gulyás, the ‘Whisky Ambassador’. Finally, Johnny Walker himself is always present at the Burns Supper so he can be a part of the presentation and the addressing of the haggis.”
The 42-year-old Attila Erdei, married with two daughters (aged 19 and 11) has worked for Diageo for almost two years. He said the decision to sponsor the event had been an easy one to take, the reasoning behind it straightforward.
“The goal of the Burns Supper [to raise funds for sick Hungarian children] is a great thing, and it is one of the few charity events we have supported over a long period of time,” he explained. But had the recent – and ongoing – global recession forced Diageo Hungary to scale back its sponsorship? “No, it is not a question,” Erdei insisted. “We will continue this sponsorship in the future as well.”
That’s good news for patrons of the supper, and, indeed, the organising committee that McAlister leads. Above all, though, it is good news for the children the supper supports.
By Robin Marshall