Sales & Marketing
The celebrity alcohol brands that have thrived and dived
10 min read
26 June 2017
Film and music stars are seemingly discontent with the millions they make from their day jobs, as there is no shortage of celebrity alcohol brands on the market.
Ocean’s Eleven actor George Clooney had an impressive payday from beverage giant Diageo in June 2017. The tequila business he and two friends created was sold in a deal worth $1bn, highlighting just how lucrative celebrity alcohol brands can be.
Fresh on the back of this, we decided to look at the finer details behind these celebrity alcohol brands to see just exactly how their theatrical talents have been carried over into the beverage business and whether they’ve thrived or dived.
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolia – Merival
While Clooney got involved on the celebrity alcohol brands scene in 2013, it seems he took inspiration from Ocean’s Eleven co-star Brad Pitt, who embraced beverage retail first.
He and then-wife Angelina Jolie took up ownership of Chateau Merival in 2008 and proceeded to introduce wine from the venue in 2012 with the help of French winemaking family, the Perrins.
According to a report, the first bottles of Merival rose wine went on sale in 2012 and all 6,000 – in cases of six bottles for €105 – sold out within five hours.
Although the pair announced they were getting divorced last year, casting doubt over the business, it was reported that Merival will continue to operate.
Estate manager, Charles Perrin, said: “[Merival] is an investment for their family and their children. We have long-term projects and have just released the latest vintage of rosé with our names: ‘bottled by Pitt, Jolie and Perrin’ on it.”
One actress decided to get her name on the bottle from the start, however, truly making the most of celebrity alcohol brands – continue on the next page.
Drew Barrymore – Barrymore Wines
While Pitt and Jolie resisted using their names in the branding initially, fellow Hollywood star Drew Barrymore embraced the trend of celebrity alcohol brands and had no problem shouting about her involvement from the rooftops.
The Barrymore Wines website has her face found throughout, with the actress declaring her love for the passion project in partnership with Carmel Road.
She has every right to, of course – Barrymore is a key part of the entire winemaking process, with three wines launched to date.
Niccolo Salvadori, a partner in SGC Group licensee for Barrymore Wines, said: “Drew made numerous trips to Italy, spent time with the facility and was involved with the wine at every level.”
Barrymore backed that up in an interview and said that it’s only right to name something after you if you’re actively involved beyond a celebrity endorsement standpoint.
She said: “I hate name slapping, I won’t do it. I was apprehensive to put my name on it. I think if you can talk about the journey and you are educated, invested and involved, you can gauge who really is there.
“Pinot Grigio and rosé were always what I would sit around with my girlfriends and drink on a Sunday afternoon.”
Barrymore’s first wine sold out at pace and a 2016 vintage has had 8,000 cases made this year, with sales expectations for the product equally as high.
It’s not just George Clooney with a taste for tequila, as we reveal on the next page.
Justin Timberlake – Sauza 901
From wine and back to tequila, singer-cum-actor Justin Timberlake is part of celebrity alcohol brands craze too, having introduced Sauza 901.
The launch of the drink, also dubbed super-premium like Clooney’s, took place in January 2014. As creator and co-owner, Timberlake aligned with tequila house Sauza – the 901 is homage to his hometown’s postcode – and spirit distillery Beam Suntory to support the marketing side of things.
At launch, Timberlake said: “My love for tequila began a few years ago after I visited the tequila heartland of Jalisco, Mexico, and saw the passion and craftsmanship that goes into every bottle. That trip inspired me to create 901, and I’m thrilled to partner with Sauza so we can continue to bring the world 901.
“I have spent the last several years creating a premium brand that captures the passion I have for tequila and redefines the category as I see it. I can’t wait for my fans to experience the new Sauza 901.”
He leveraged his tour that year and ensured that Sauza 901 bars were available for fans to get their hands on the $30 bottles.
On the next page, see which hip hop star has embraced not one, but two brands of booze.
P Diddy – Combs Wines and Spirits
Combs Wines and Spirits was founded by P Diddy (real name Sean Combs) in 2013, following on from his collaboration with Diageo for Ciroc vodka, which took him into the realm of celebrity alcohol brands.
On the CWS website, it says: “Combs Wine & Spirits is an expert in delivering unique product propositions and over-serving the consumer by delivering excellence in liquid and superior packaging.”
Other than that, little else is given away.
Ciroc itself was launched in 2003, but it wasn’t until 2007 when Combs was drafted in to help shift bottles in the US through a 50-50 profit share with potential for him to pocket $100m.
Debra Kelly-Ennis, Diageo North America’s CMO, said: “Sean Combs has a proven track record of developing high-end brands and we expect his alliance with Ciroc to follow suit.”
By 2013, sales of Ciroc were up by 600 per cent, thanks to the help of Combs. It was then reported he was likely to make hundreds of millions of dollars, up from the previous $100m expectation.
Combs and Diageo made a play for further celebrity alcohol brands success in 2014 with the joint acquisition of DeLeon – yet another tequila brand – which boasts an eye-watering price of $120 to $1,000 a bottle.
Combs said: “With Ciroc, we tested the waters – or, I would say, we dated. Now, with this joint venture, we took this step and we got married. I think it’s organic, I think we work together so well, we have a proven track record, and I wouldn’t want to do it with anybody else.”
In January 2016, Ciroc sales reportedly declined by a third, during a point when sales of Diageo’s vodka range fell by nine per cent.
Indeed it’s not all smooth sailing in the world of celebrity alcohol brands – on the next page, find out which singer-songwriter sued Diageo for $5m after breach of contract.
Pharrell Williams – Q Qream
Singer-songwriter Pharrell Williams tried getting in on the celebrity alcohol brands action with Q Qream, but all too quickly it went horribly wrong.
The female-targeted product unveiled in July 2011, Qream with a Q came in strawberry cream and peach cream flavours.
He said: “When we looked at the market, there were all these alcohol brands that use women in their ads but nothing specifically for them. That’s what we created Qream for. We’re bringing indulgence back to the ladies.”
By January 2013, it became that celebrity alcohol brands can indeed go awry as things between Williams and partner Diageo turned sour.
Although a three-year deal was in place, Williams took legal action for breach of contract after just 18 months when Diageo abandoned his brand and left it out in the cold following poor sales.
Filing for a sum of $5m, Williams claimed the firm’s “critical and avoidable mistakes” damaged the brand, which was promoted as a club drink by the company, though Williams insisted that it was a high-end beverage.