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SB Voices: Celebrity sells spirits

As Hollywood actor Ryan Reynolds becomes the latest famous face to throw his support behind a spirit brand, Owen Bellwood asks whether celebrity really does sell.

Ryan Reynolds Aviation
Ryan Reynolds has become the latest famous face to partner with a spirits brand

This week, the SB office became very excited by the prospect of possibly interviewing actor Ryan Reynolds.

The star of Deadpool, The Proposal and Safe House, announced on Twitter that he had purchased Oregon-based gin brand, Aviation. It turns out, a love of the American gin is just one thing I have in common with the Canadian actor.

Apparently, Reynolds’ will “play an active role” in the “day-to-day business” of Aviation Gin, becoming responsible for its creative direction.

I wonder if he’d like to talk to us about his newly acquired brand? Imagine that, Reynolds taking centre stage as the Big Interview in one of our future issues, where we could discuss how his involvement in the brand has seen Avation really take off.

It turns out, however, that the worlds of celebrity and spirits have been closely connected for several years.

George Clooney has his Casamigos Tequila brand – recently bought by Diageo – Matthew McConaughey is the creative director of Wild Turkey, and David Beckham is the face of Diageo’s Haig Club whisky. There’s also Thuderstruck Tequila, from rock band AC/DC, Danny Devito’s brand of Limoncello and, I know it isn’t strictly our area but, pop band Hanson released a beer called MmmHop.

But what input do these actors, musicians and athletes have on the spirit brands they’re involved with?

In his role as creative director at Wild Turkey, McConaughey has created adverts and marketing material for the brand. He has also appeared on talkshows in America to discuss his involvement with the Bourbon maker, and brand-owner Campari described his appointment as “the best decision we could have made”.

Beckham also regularly features in promotional material for the Haig Club brand of single grain whisky, most recently appearing in Diageo’s Leave As You Arrived campaign to promote responsible drinking.

Personality has always been one of the biggest strengths of the spirits industry, so a deal with a likeable character such as Reynolds may lead to unprecedented demand.

However, when I spoke to Glen Brasington, marketing director for strategy and business development at Chivas Brothers, he thought spirit drinkers were hard consumers to entice. He said: “With spirits, you’ve got a highly involved product where people have a preference and often are introduced to that product through a trusted uncle, farther or a friend. This will really endorse a product and carry a lot of weight.”

In order to be effective advocates of their brands, celebrity ambassadors must compete with these trusted endorsements. They must also promote a brand’s integrity, history and quality status – all factors that have become increasingly important for spirits producers around the world.

At the moment, the extent of Reynolds’ involvement in Aviation is a little unclear – I guess I’ll have to reach out and see if he’s interested in taking part in an interview.

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