In recent years, a growing number of celebrities have invested in or even started their own alcoholic beverage brands. George Clooney and Diddy were among the first years ago, but now Blake Lively, Dwayne Johnson, Bryan Cranston, Eva Longoria, Gabrielle Union, Nick Jonas, Kate Hudson, Blake Shelton and others have joined the seemingly endless list of celebrities with alcohol-related product lines.
For these stars, the gambit has undoubtedly paid off. As they say, the rich get richer. But as a business owner, you can get buzzed just like your favorite stars – no drop of alcohol needed. It’s just a matter of finding the right celebrity investor.
Why celebrities increasingly invest in alcohol brands
From hard liquor to fizzy drinks to nonalcoholic mixers, what makes these alcohol-related businesses so appealing to the biggest stars? Mark Haas, CEO and president of food and beverage CPG firm The Helmsman Group, said it’s all about lifestyle branding and society’s normalization of alcohol.
“Celebrities today have so much media power and a platform to communicate more about who and what they are,” Haas said. “Historically, celebrities would have entered licensing deals for royalties. Alcohol was always taboo, and many of these royalty agreements used to contain morality clauses. Today, alcohol doesn’t seem to be the forbidden territory it once was. Celebrities are free to engage in marketing, and spirits [are] more lucrative equity territory.”
The alcoholic beverage industry is unquestionably a profitable one. Online alcohol sales, takeout cocktails and alcohol apps all flourished during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Statista predicts that by 2025, the global market size for alcoholic beverages will surpass $2.2 trillion. It makes sense, then, that celebrities looking for big profit potential would flock to this market sector.
“These high-profile celebrities are also high-net-worth individuals with cash on hand for the right business opportunity,” Haas explained.
Of course, a celebrity-backed investment offer is also a boon for the brand itself.
“Numerous studies have already shown that celebrities can affect consumer behavior, especially if the celebrity’s image aligns with the brand,” said Clint Proctor, editor-in-chief of Investor Junkie. “Having celebrities as your investors can help you increase your sales and make your brand more recognizable to people. The celebrity’s fans or followers [will] associate the celeb’s positive image with your brand.”
Although digital marketing and partnering with influencers to build your brand can benefit businesses of any size, you should verify the legitimacy of someone’s followers before paying them for any sponsorships. Learn more about influencer marketing fraud.
Celebrities may also gravitate toward the alcohol industry because of its turnaround times. Some spirits, like tequila, can be produced quickly. When a unique product can be created quickly, it can be shipped and sold quickly. When a product takes a long time to make, it’s harder to sell at a high volume.
Savvy celebrity investors may look for products and ventures with short turnaround times to maximize sales and profits. Fast production times are also helpful for celebrities, who can then be ready to sell their next batch as soon as the first launch sells out. And yet “luxury” alcohol brands with long production and aging periods may also yield high profits, as they can be sold at a premium price.
Famous celebrity-owned alcohol brands
One prominent example of a celebrity alcohol brand investment is Ryan Reynolds buying into Aviation Gin. Like any private equity investor, Reynolds invested in the company, supported it and cashed out. The key difference, said Haas, is that Reynolds’ participation in the brand was “simply earth-shattering.”
“Ryan Reynolds has millions of fans and followers and excellent material to work with – who can forget his commercials?” he said. “Three years of investment and Reynolds cashed out with $610 million.”
Here are a few other notable celebs with flourishing alcohol brands on the market.
- Diddy’s Ciroc Vodka: Along with George Clooney, Diddy was among the first celebrities to branch into the booze business with his investments in Ciroc Vodka. Diddy was a spokesperson for Ciroc in the late 2000s and took over the product’s U.S. marketing. Many credit Ciroc’s success and notable name entirely to Diddy’s influence.
- Jay-Z’s D’ussé Cognac: Jay-Z – and his famous spouse, Beyoncé – have been investing in liquor brands for years as part of their massive empire. Jay-Z’s involvement with D’ussé even featured a Grand Champagne cognac from 1969 with his signature and a gold leaf seal on the bottle, which Sotheby’s values between $24,000 and $75,000.
- Bethenny Frankel’s Skinnygirl: Frankel’s iconic bottles with their “skinny girl” silhouette can be found on shelves virtually anywhere alcohol is sold. Skinnygirl, known for its flagship Skinnygirl margarita product, offers lower-calorie versions of wine, cocktails and other popular drinks, along with products like salad dressing. Frankel founded Skinnygirl in 2009 and was one of the first prominent female celebrities to launch.
- Matthew McConaughey’s Wild Turkey Longbranch Bourbon: Although he’s the face of Wild Turkey Longbranch, which is made in Texas just like the star, McConaughey isn’t as present on the company’s website as you might expect. Wild Turkey’s relationship with McConaughey feels more like a partnership; therefore, its website stresses the brand’s rich history and experience instead of the star.
- Danny DeVito’s Premium Limoncello: DeVito’s jaunt into the world of celebrity alcohol easily stands out from the pack. That’s because there are very few American limoncello brands, even though the drink is quite popular in Italy. In 2007, DeVito found a hole in the market and filled it with organic lemons from Southern Italy and his own massive star power.
For a slam dunk like Danny DeVito’s limoncello, your business should conduct market research to identify what your competitors are doing and what your target market is missing.
- David Beckham & Haig Club: Beckham helped create Haig Club in 2014 and maintains a brand partnership with it. The Haig Club site points out the soccer star has spent thousands of air miles traveling around the globe to support the brand at events and launches.
- Drake’s Virginia Black American Whiskey: Virginia Black’s website is sleek, classy and moody – it even comes with musical accompaniment from a Canadian R&B duo. Drake is nowhere to be found on the site, which appears to be extremely rare in the realm of celebrity booze. The whiskey itself leans sweet with prominent flavors of vanilla and cinnamon.
- Post Malone’s Maison No. 9: Bottles of Maison No. 9 rosé wine feature stylized images of a sword, which references one of Post Malone’s notable face tattoos. The sword can also be found in a dreamily shot video at the top of Maison No. 9’s website. The video features Post Malone in Regency-reminiscent wear in a summery garden, lending itself to the light flavors of the rosé.
- Kendall Jenner’s 818 Tequila: Like the mogul family of its owner, 818 Tequila stresses family and luxury at every step. Only the best ingredients are grown and harvested on family-owned farms to produce an award-winning tequila. Interestingly, Jenner shifted her look from sleek and expensive to jeans and a baseball cap for the images on 818’s site, as if she too were harvesting agave on the farm.
How to attract a celebrity investor to your startup
Whether or not you’re in the food and beverage industry, your startup may be ripe for funding – and who says that investment can’t come from somebody famous? While preexisting connections to celebrities can certainly help, there are a few things you can do to make your product appealing to a prospective investor.
According to Proctor, the key to attracting high-profile investors (or any investor, for that matter) is researching the investor’s background thoroughly.
“You’ll have to make sure that this is an investor whose image is aligned with your brand,” Proctor said. “It’s also as important that their followers or market also coincides with your target market, or else the partnership might not be beneficial for both parties.”
There are different types of business investors you can pitch to raise capital for your startup. From venture capitalists and angel investors to crowdfunding, the right type of investment depends on your business goals and how much money you need.
Proctor further advised ensuring the investor is truly bought into your brand before signing any deals. “Staged partnerships can easily be noticed by people, so having an investor who is genuinely excited [about] and supportive of your brand and vision can help your company massively,” Proctor added. [Find out how to attract investors with the right marketing strategy.]
With the right product and the right celebrity behind it, you too can wind up drunk on money – without the hangover.