Celebrities and liquor endorsements have been synonymous since the days of Prohibition, and in the black community, the link between the two has come with big dividends and some criticism. However, one can’t deny the bankability of a celebrity endorsement in expanding the exposure and sales of a spirits company.
In 2001, after Busta Rhymes released his hit “Pass the Courvoisier,” the company saw a 30% sales increase in U.S. sales. Fast-forward over a decade later and you’ll notice an influx of celebrities such as Sean Diddy Combs, Ludacris and Jay-Z, who are not only lending their name to endorsing liquor brands, they’re fully immersed in the creative process as well.
Whether it’s simply mentioning the brand in a hit song, marketing the product through social media or taking a 50-50 profit split for brand positioning, these are lucrative deals for both the brand and the artist.
According to David McCallen, CEO of Straight Up Brands Inc., a producer of wines and branded spirits in conjunction with hip-hop stars and nationally known celebrities, the quality of the wine isn’t the main point—it’s all about placement and cross-promotion. Typically, the artist “owns a piece of the brand” and shares in revenue as a creative partner. “We give them signing bonuses, just like a record deal,” he explains. “I want the artist to literally work [the name] into their songs, rap about it, have it in their videos. It’s all product placement.”
Check out a breakdown of popular entertainers who have famously raised the bankability of liquor brands.