From Ryan Reynolds at Aviation American Gin to Dwayne Johnson at Teremana Tequila, celebrity involvement in the beverage alcohol industry seems to be at an all-time high. The alcohol category provides a unique opportunity for influencers to make a connection with consumers, but even though adding star power might seem like a slam dunk for the brand, execution is still the key.
Few people know this better than Dia Simms, who was instrumental in the success of Cîroc Vodka and DeLeón Tequila through her leadership at Combs Enterprises. In a recent video interview, Simms—who is now partnered with LeBron James and Diego Osorio for her new venture Lobos 1707—gives her key strategies on how to develop a winning celebrity partnership.
Utilize the Talent’s Skillset
“The biggest mistake that I see is the idea that you can just add a celebrity to a spirits brand and that equals success,” says Simms. “It can be a disaster if it’s not properly deployed.”
According to Simms, it’s important to invite the talent to the table on innovation and decision making, especially if they are someone that has had success in a creative field. Having an owner or investor that can disrupt the field creatively is a huge addition.
Embed the Brand in the Talent’s Lifestyle
That respect must go both ways, Simms notes. A good week-one initiative is to make sure the talent and everyone on their team is on the same page with management, taking into consideration everything that goes into the unique three-tier system. Most importantly, the talent should understand that social responsibility messaging is paramount in the spirits industry and their words hold power
Making sure someone from the team is embedded with the talent’s team is another great strategy to maintain a strong day-to-day working relationship, according to Simms.
“A lot of these talents have ten things happening, so maybe their primary job is on a television show, but if they’re also a figure in their community and hosting a gala we want the product to be a part of that,” says Simms. “But you may not know that if you’re not an embedded part of that group.”
Overall, in a market now flooded with celebrity involvement, the biggest risk is inauthenticity. Consumers want to see real rationale for the celebrity’s involvement and they are smart enough to know when the talent doesn’t have an authentic connection to the brand.
“You have to mean it and you have to engage,” Simms points out. “It does worry me that people think it’s formulaic. It can’t be a soulless exercise in consumerism.”