Diageo, Rapper Combs Go Partners On Ciroc Brand Of Vodka

Diageo, the world's leading premium drinks business, is joining Anheuser-Busch and Coca-Cola in a trend that is gaining steam in the spirits and beverage industry. It has inked a deal with black rapper Sean "Diddy" Combs not only to shill for its super-premium vodka Ciroc, but to help develop the brand with a promised 50% of the profits.

The multi-year agreement is the latest in which a celebrity is going beyond the typical endorser role. Combs joins rappers Jay-Z for Budweiser Select and 50 Cent for Coke's Vitamin Water. In fact, 50 Cent enjoyed a robust $400 million payout when Coke purchased the brand from Glaceau for more than $4 billion earlier this year.

Diageo predicts its pact with Combs could be worth more than $100 million for the 37-year-old mogul who owns his own perfume and clothing lines and is CEO of Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment.

Robert Passikoff, founder/president of Brand Keys, Inc., says that "to a certain degree it's the same old same old except for the financial deal. Although now, instead of just being an endorser, what [the celebrities] need to do is actually be an engager in terms of the brand itself."



It is what separates Tanqueray's Tony Sinclair and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide's chief beer officer from these new guys on the block.

Of the new arrangements, Passikoff says: "From a practical perspective it's good. It means the celebrity actually needs to work at building the brand instead of standing next to it, as has been the traditional role."

The history of hiring celebrities to endorse brands, he says, is based on brands that had "no values of their own. They borrowed them from the celebrity, some set of values that resonated with the targeted audience. It seems a bit broader in this case in terms of luxury and lifestyle. A guy like Combs may be able to manage it.

"Everyone's always looking for some celebrity because most stuff has totally been turned into commodities," he says. "So folks are always looking for someone that maybe stands for something more than the product stands for."

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