Wine & Spirits

Celebrity Liquors

Marvel’s Deadpool Named Creative Director of Espolón Tequila

Just in time for the release of Deadpool 2 in theaters, Espolón Tequila, distributed by Campari Group, has announced that the Marvel superhero is their new Creative Director of Culture ’n’ Stuff. 20th Century Fox and the Campari Group are obviously having some fun with their marketing, but they are also following a successful formula. In recent years a number of stars from pop music and Hollywood movies have entered the alcohol industry in a big way through endorsements and partnerships with existing brands as well as ownership and development of their own, new liquor brands.

In fact, part of the Espolón campaign has the smart-aleck Deadpool mocking Ryan Reynolds, the actor who plays him in the movie, “There is absolutely no reason why that Canadian gobstopper is getting all the glory. I’m a legit superhero.” Earlier this year, Reynolds become the owner of Portland, Oregon based Aviation Gin.

Celebrity endorsements of alcohol brands are nothing new. In 1955 Jack Daniels was already a 100 year old distillery, but it was a small regional brand selling some 150,000 cases of its Tennessee whiskey each year. Then, none other than Frank Sinatra started singing its praises and made it a household name. Within a year sales had doubled. Sinatra was not an official spokesman, just a fan of the brand, and all he ever received in compensation was all the whiskey he wanted.

Celebrities Enter Liquor Market in Big Way

Today relationships between brands and their ambassadors are more formal with stars lending their faces and voices to sell liquor and being handsomely compensated for it. Some of those celebrities have gone beyond endorsements to enter the liquor industry in earnest, either in the form of passion projects or promising business opportunities. Here are some notable examples:

  • In 2007 entrepreneur and rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs partnered with beverage maker Diageo to introduce Ciroc vodka. Sales for the vodka have grown from 50,000 cases to almost 2 million cases since the partnership began.
  • Academy Award winner George Clooney and businessman Rand Gerber had developed an in-house tequila for their property in Cabo San Lucas. The small batch tequila, Casamigos, is now a bottled brand sold in stores.
  • Channing Tatum and his former assistant Jack Maloney co-founded Born and Bred Vodka when Tatum began choosing the lower calorie spirit over beer or brown liquors. Their idea was for a causal vodka that would feel at home in a fancy nightclub as well as in a dive bar.
  • Musician and actor Justin Timberlake first launched his 901 tequila in 2009. The name is a reference to his hometown, Memphis area code.  Timberlake joined forces with Beam Suntory and rebranded the tequila as Suaza 901. Timberlake regularly tweets about his tequila to his 40 million followers and has made commercials for the brand.
  • Not all celebrity owned liquor brands are eager to put their famous owner front and center in their marketing or publicity. The luxury Champagne brand, Armand de Brignac, for example, was bought by rapper Jay Z, but his name and likeness do not appear on the company website or any of their ads.

These business partnerships have been successful, for the most part. Expect to see more celebrities dabbling in the alcohol business in the future.

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The Author

Marbet Lewis

Marbet Lewis

Marbet Lewis has focused her practice on the laws governing the alcohol industry and the manufacture, importation, and sale of alcohol beverage products since 2004. She represents clients in all aspects of alcohol and business licensing in Florida including alcohol licensee mergers and acquisitions, negotiation of asset purchase agreements and required alcohol use provisions, license transfers and licensing due diligence, trade practices, alcohol product advertising and review of marketing agreements, importation agreements, label approvals, and regulatory compliance guidance. Her experience also includes enforcement action defense and administrative litigation, zoning and land use due diligence and approval processes, and state and local government regulatory compliance. She works with domestic and foreign suppliers, wholesalers and a broad range of retailers, including nightclubs, bars, movie theater operators, hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, bars, nightclubs, and pharmacy chains.

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