The Leading Brands of Spain Forum named as honorary ambassadors for "Brand Spain" actor Antonio Banderas, Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso and the country's High-Speed rail service.

Also selected to be honorary envoys for their work to strengthen Spain's image abroad were businessman Isak Andic, the founder and main stockholder of the Mango fashion retailer group, economist Pedro Nueno, chef Jose Andres, cancer researcher Dr. Maria Blasco and the National Transplant Organization.

The awards are aimed at publicly recognizing people, businesses or institutions that have contributed greatly during their professional careers to strengthening the international image of the Iberian nation.

Banderas was honored in the Culture and Communication category for being one of the "best-known and admired" Spanish artists internationally, having pursued an "extensive" film career in the United States.

Alonso was selected in the Sports category for being one of the Spanish athletes to be enjoying "great success and international projection, admired and respected throughout the world."

The judging panel headed by Antonio Abril, the general secretary of the Inditex textile group, included Carlos Espinosa de los Monteros, the Government High Commissioner for Brand Spain.

This is the first time that this recognition has been bestowed since the creation of the post of high commissioner. The high commissioner backed the initiative to develop the Leading Brands of Spain Forum, which includes more than 100 companies and several government ministers.

Other personalities who have been selected in the past to be honorary ambassadors for Brand Spain include Rafael Nadal, Placido Domingo, Ferran Adria, Amancio Ortega, Emilio Botin, Javier Solana and Pau Gasol. EFE