Celebrity whiskey & bourbon, good or bad?

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With so many whiskies and bourbons available to consumers, choosing what to buy can sometimes take time, especially if you are new to drinking whiskey and bourbon.

Marketing teams looking to attract people to their brand sometimes turn to the simple yet effective tool of celebrity endorsement. This can come in several formats, ranging from product placement within a film or popular television program to full singular celebrity endorsement.

You may have seen Jimmy Kimmel and many celebrities taking shots of tequila recently at the 2024 Oscars ceremony. That tequila was Don Julio 1942. If ever there was an effective advert for a spirit, that would be one! According to Nielson data, the Oscars were broadcast to an audience of approximately 19.5 million.

Other celebrity whiskey and bourbon partnerships include:

Sweetens Cove BourbonPeyton Manning, Andy Roddick, and friends:

  • A collaboration between NFL legend Peyton Manning, tennis champion Andy Roddick, and their friends

Wild Turkey Longbranch BourbonMatthew McConaughey:

  • Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey collaborated with Wild Turkey

Catoctin Creek Ragnarök RyeGWAR:

  • The heavy metal band GWAR partnered with Catoctin Creek Distillery

Haig Club – David Beckham

  • Haig Club is a single grain Scotch whisky endorsed by football legend David Beckham. Beckham has been associated with Haig Club since 2014. Although the partnership ended in 2023, people will still have that association.

So why are these endorsements good for marketing a whiskey or bourbon brand?

Well, much of this comes down to trust and aspirations. If a company invites a celebrity to collaborate, it will look for someone likable, trustworthy, and memorable (for the right reasons!). However, at the same time, it doesn't want the celebrity to completely eclipse the product either. This is known as the “vampire effect,” where a consumer takes more notice of the celebrity than the product.

So, if the vampire effect is problematic, why still use a celebrity?

Evolution. Research has shown that humans and primates will take their lead from those in a position of success or higher status. The thought process is, "If it's good enough for "x," then it must surely be good enough for me.” Of course, we aren’t unquestioningly led into a purchase. If the celebrity is endorsing something you don't like, then however much you may like the celebrity, you are still not going to purchase that product.

As with much marketing and product placement, whether on screen or in real life, a lot of research has gone into tracking eye movement. In relation to celebrity-endorsed products, although the eye may linger on the celebrity longer than on the product, due to the evolutionary aspiration aspect, a decision is made quicker than on a non-celebrity-endorsed product.

(More information on this can be found here: The Marketing Psychology Behind Celebrity Endorsements - Knowledge at Wharton (upenn.edu) )

Of course, it's not just real-life celebrities who endorse a dram. Many fictional characters are also partial to whiskey or bourbon.

One of the most famous is James Bond. While we may initially associate him with a martini on screen, he drank bourbon more often in the books written by Ian Fleming. This is due to Fleming himself enjoying the dram.

In Steig Larsson's series of Swedish crime novels (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc.), the lead female character, Lisbeth Salander, drinks Tullamore D.E.W., the Irish Whiskey.

Katniss Everdeen, the lead character in the Hunger Games series, is witnessed drinking Moonshine (white liquor) with other characters.

While these characters are fictional, the combination of the actor and the character can influence the consumer when considering the purchase of a product.

To sum up, the overall use of a celebrity to endorse a product is viewed as a positive investment. The celebrity can bring a product to their audience, which may not usually turn to that product. A recent example of this may be Sam Heughan and The Sassenach whisky. (We’ll let you work this out).

The celebrity can bring credibility and trustworthiness; this links back to the evolutionary response, as noted previously.

Lastly, the association with a particular celebrity may elevate the product from a perceived lower-end brand to a higher-placed product.

So, while you may now be in the mood to have your own personal whiskey or bourbon to drink or even bottle and sell, we can't necessarily provide you with a celebrity to accompany any purchase you may make with Barrel Global; we can say you will get the star treatment yourself from our team.

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