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SB Voices: Stars in their ryes

Following news that two fighting superstars have moved into spirits, Amy Hopkins looks at the successful – and not so successful – partnerships between drinks brands and celebrities.

Floyd Mayweather partnered with Avoin Tequila this year

Last month, ahead of the so-called ‘fight of the century’ that got the whole world talking, five-division world champion Floyd Mayweather put his name to a US$1,500 bottle of Avión Tequila to mark his 50th professional fight – in which the American was once again victorious.

Only 150 bottles of the special edition Avión Reserva 44 Extra Añejo were made available, and more than likely went like hot cakes.

A few days later, his Irish nemesis (and ultimately the losing party) Conor McGregor announced his own plans to “take over” the Irish whiskey category with the launch of a brand called Notorious.

Clearly seeing a silver lining, McGregor took to the podium after his loss to plug the fledgling brand – full details of which are yet to be revealed. “Notorious Irish whiskey, coming soon,” he enthused. “I’m going to take over the Irish whiskey market – and this is delicious! Boy that whiskey tastes so good. Keep an eye out for it.”

The Spirits Business reported both stories, which turned out to be the two most read articles on our website that month – testament to people’s interest in celebrity endorsed, backed, or created brands.

A swathe of celebrities – be they actors, musicians, sports or reality TV stars – have lent their names, faces and voices to multi-million pound spirits marketing campaigns.

Sometimes they encounter controversy (a notable example includes David Beckham’s run in with Alcohol Concern over his prolific association with Haig Club), but by and large, and good spirits-celebrity partnership can be incredibly lucrative for both parties.

However – as with all relationships, particularly commercial ones – such partnerships need to be thoughtfully entered into. Instances of marketing gaffes or business fall-outs are well-known. In 2013, rapper and producer Pharrell Williams sued Diageo North America for US$5 million, arguing that the UK drinks group was responsible for the “failure” of his Q Qream liqueur.

Meanwhile, English actress Claire Forlani came under fire for her poor Scottish accent in an advert for Dewar’s Highlander Honey. The Meet Joe Black actress was described by ad agency Opperman Weiss as a “siren with the presence of a queen and the mouth of a gangster”.

Hopefully, if they further their forays into spirits, Mayweather and McGregor will take valuable lessons away from partnerships previously thought to be so promising.

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