Behind the celebrity-owned tequila craze in the US

From actors George Clooney and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to NBA legend Michael Jordan, tequila has caught the eye of a plethora of celebrities. IWSR assesses tequila's rise to fame.


From actors George Clooney and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to NBA legend Michael Jordan, tequila has caught the eye of a plethora of celebrities. With the majority of the world’s consumption of tequila in the US and Mexico (where it is produced), tequila’s image has evolved from a bar shot of choice to a premium sipping drink. IWSR data shows that volume consumption of tequila in the US grew by 8.3% in 2019 alone and is forecasted to grow by another 5 million nine-litre cases by 2024.

Tequila’s rise as one of the fastest-growing spirit categories in the US is the result of a confluence of trends: premiumisation, image-driven culture, wellness and a more diversified US population. Tequila’s premiumisation began in the late 80’s with Patron, which was launched by John Paul Dejoria. Already established in luxury beauty as the founder of Paul Mitchell, Dejoria understood how to market and position luxury products. He extended his skills to his tequila brand, educating consumers on how to appreciate 100% blue agave and aged-style tequilas. Patron was later sold to Bacardi for $5.1 billion (for context, Bacardi paid $2 billion for Grey Goose in 2004).

The rise of social media and product placement helped bring tequila to the forefront of celebrity culture. The brand Avion played a central role in the seventh season of HBO’s hit show Entourage, which followed a fictional actor and his Hollywood friends. Since then, a number of celebrities have launched their own tequila brands, usually at the premium-end of the category. For example, in 2013, actor George Clooney founded Casamigos with Cindy Crawford’s husband Randy Gerber, which later sold to Diageo for $1 billion in 2017. In the same year, Sean Combs, also known as Diddy, saw volumes of his luxury DeLeon Tequila double. IWSR data shows that by 2019, premium-plus tequilas grew 16.3%, driving the category’s overall momentum.

Celebrity-backed tequila has greatly benefited from its association with its famous owners, especially through marketing campaigns. From 2018 to 2019, IWSR recorded a 31.7% volume surge of tequilas endorsed by influencers. “What sets celebrity tequilas apart is a combination of a genuine relationship with suppliers and a purpose-driven marketing strategy,” comments Mariana Fletcher, Head of US Insights and Analytics at IWSR. Recent brands include Prospero, endorsed by singer Rita Ora, and Villa One, a collaboration between musician Nick Jonas and designer John Varvatos.

One of the more recent celebrity-owned tequila launches comes from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He built his marketing strategy for Teramana, around an ethos of sustainability and spirituality – connecting with the mindset of his target millennial audience. As the Covid-19 pandemic spread across the world, The Rock’s initial plans for a red-carpet launch had to be reworked. Johnson instead leveraged his far-reaching social media accounts to launch Teramana into the market. For example, on Instagram, where he is the 3rd most followed person in the world, Johnson gives his fans a more personal introduction to his drink, from sharing videos of him enjoying tequila with his mother to hosting live cocktail-making videos.

As the health and wellness culture has surged alongside awareness of where products come from, tequila’s authentic production methods have resonated with consumers. The added celebrity endorsement has helped propel tequila into the spotlight.


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