Home Wine Business Editorial Sales & Marketing Distant Stars: Celebrity Wines and Endorsements Won’t Save Us

Distant Stars: Celebrity Wines and Endorsements Won’t Save Us

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Where is Taylor Swift when wine needs her?

By Jeff Siegel

Is the cure for what ails wine as simple as a couple of A-list celebrity brands? In other words, where is Taylor Swift when wine needs her?

“Sure, celebrity endorsement helps elevate a brand out of the scrum that is the modern day wine business,” says Dan Fredman, a long-time California wine marketer and publicist. ”And that might give the brand a leg up over other brands in other categories — but it’s not going to save the industry.”

The reasons for this, say several wine marketers, are part and parcel of wine’s troubles with younger consumers. Yes, celebrity wine has its own set of problems, including poorly-made wine and celebrities who don’t put in the effort to support the product or are too distant from the A-list to make a difference even if they did. 

And, sometimes, celebrities aren’t all that “celebrity” anymore. Treasury Wine Estate’s Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart wines, once a bright spot for the troubled multi-national, have seen sales fall as TWE has struggled with its less expensive brands. A quick Internet search shows that some retailers are discounting the wines to less than $8 per bottle. 

Older stars, older audiences

     There are also problems with celebrity wine that are unique to this time and place. Know that most of the celebrity wine brands that work today appeal to the youngest Baby Boomers and the oldest Gen Xers, names like Sarah Jessica Parker and Cameron Diaz. A marketer who has worked on the SJP wine even made that point; the brand isn’t aimed at millennials or Gen Z.

But try to find a celebrity younger than that who pushes wine? Good luck – Post Malone, but who else? And that’s because younger celebrities don’t see wine as a fit with their brand, because their audiences don’t seem to be interested in wine.

Sound familiar?

“If celebrity brands are about lifestyles, like the way rappers and hip-hop used Champagne as a symbol of the good life, then it’s not surprising that younger celebrities don’t have wine brands,” says Napa wine marketer Paul Tincknell. “They don’t see it as part of their lifestyles, and certainly not of their fans’. So they look for something else.”

So Jessica Alba does makeup. Ariana Grande does perfume. Rhianna does clothing. And, perhaps most significantly, Texas lifestyle guru Joanna Gaines, whose audience is 82% women between 17 and 34, according to Neoreach, does home and design and cooking. But not wine.

A Lifestyle Fit

This change in celebrity branding might have started two decades ago, when golfer Tiger Woods was one of the most famous people in the world. But Woods never did wine; rather, he did trading cards, sports drinks and athletic shoes (among many other endorsements). In this, says Tincknell, Woods chose products that fit his lifestyle, as well as those of his fans. 

That’s much different from wine’s Baby Boomer celebrity heyday, when everyone from football stars to rock musicians to actors seemed to have a winery. Even Devo’s Jerry Casale, who fronted a band that was about as counter-culture as counter-culture could be, bought into Napa.

Tincknell says one of the key differences between then and now is that wine was once seen as part of a healthy lifestyle, thanks to the French Paradox. That’s not the case today, given the neo-Prohibitionist attacks on alcohol, and that almost every demographic take on younger consumers identifies a healthy lifestyle (along with eco-consciousness) as a key to what they want from a product.

Slide Into the Socials

One other hurdle wine has to overcome in recruiting younger celebrities? Social media, which the younger A-listers deem essential but which the wine industry has never quite understood or consistently done well.

“It seems to me that the success of a celebrity wine largely comes down to one thing: social media,“ says Jane Kettlewell of New York City’s Creative Palate marketing agency. She says she and business partner Kate Morgan-Corcoran don’t represent any celebrity brands, but that, “I’d love to know who’s buying these wines. Are celeb wines making inroads with Gen Z? Though not if my Gen Z younger son and his friends are anything to go by — if they drink at all, it’s not wine.”

In other words, this might be a problem that not even Taylor Swift’s super fame could solve.

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Jeff Siegel

Jeff Siegel is an award-winning wine writer, as well as the co-founder and former president of Drink Local Wine, the first locavore wine movement. He has taught wine, beer, spirits, and beverage management at El Centro College and the Cordon Bleu in Dallas. He has written seven books, including “The Wine Curmudgeon’s Guide to Cheap Wine.”

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