Charlie Sheen + Tequila = crazy, chaos or commercial success?!?

This week, a number of celebrity brand appointments have been announced, but the one that has me scratching my head the most is the choice of Charlie Sheen as a co-owner and public representative of Dos Sueños tequila.

A combination perhaps best described as questionable and one with the potential to do serious damage to both parties.

As someone best known for his partying heydays, sexual dalliances and his very public drink and drug induced meltdown – Sheen is an unlikely appointment.

Surely question number one on the due diligence list for selecting someone to help promote the brand and tell your story is ‘do they have a history of substance abuse?’

Yes Sheen is reportedly 19 months sober, but he has relapsed many times and his substance abuse issues were pretty much live streamed to the world via twitter and various public appearances. Many of his quotes from that time are still legendary and make for uncomfortable viewing.

Is this where ‘celebrity tequila’ has officially jumped the shark’

While undoubtedly, the right celebrity partner can work wonders for brand growth, it is really not as simple as getting a famous face on board and then bingo you sell over 100,000 cases and sell the brand for a billion bucks.

Building a brand is a hard slog and should be viewed as a long-term commitment.

You need to have a decent story that resonates without the celebrity involvement and you need to think really hard about who you associate with and what that says about you.

Sheen’s involvement is just one in a number of celebrity-backed tequilas to have been announced/launched recently. Leading to respected spirits writer, Kara Newman to question whether this is when ‘celebrity tequila’ has officially jumped the shark.

Selecting a celebrity brand partner

There are a number of questions to consider when selecting a celebrity brand partner.

1. Are they credible?

Will consumers believe they are doing this for something other than the desire to get paid? What other partnerships have they done? And what does this say about them?

2. Do they reflect your brand in a positive way?

Do you share any of the same values? Believe in the same things?

3. Do they speak to your target consumer?

What is their currency at the moment? Will they help you recruit new audiences?

4. Does the partnership have authenticity?

What are they known for drinking? There is no point paying someone who is a known Jack n Coke guy to front a campaign for a single malt.

5. Can they add value to your brand?

Aside from reach what can they bring to the table creatively? How involved do they want to be? What time do you have with them? How can you best use that time? What are they like to work with? I’d always go for someone easy to work with and reliable over a potential loose cannon or nightmare to work with.

Doing your due diligence

Now you have your shortlist, it’s time to do due diligence before having any deeper conversations with people or agents.

1. Do they have or have they had a known substance abuse issue?

#1 on the list if you are a beverage brand is, to check if they have had any substance abuse issues. Normally, a negative answer to this, would mean they were automatically excluded for consideration. What makes the Sheen story so bewildering is they approached him, when his substance abuse issues were documented live to the world and he is a barely 2 years out of rehab.

2. Have they done/said anything dumb that could bring the brand’s reputation into disrepute?

A comprehensive sweep of all social channels and historic interviews is the first step.

With Sheen it will take a New York minute to find details of domestic abuse charges, anti-Semitic rants, semi-lucid quotes about fire breathing fists & tiger blood. These are not #Winning references

3. Do they have any associations/partnerships that might bring the brand into disrepute?

The company you keep says a lot about you and the company they keep can come back to haunt you too.

4. Who else are/have they working with, do they have any competing campaigns/projects?

If they have worked on a competitor brand recently, it can really reduce the impact of any involvement, as consumers forget which brand was which.

Is all publicity, good publicity?

Dos Sueños is getting a lot of publicity right now, but is all publicity good publicity?

Don Suenos seems to think so by the way they chose to tweet a fairly damning article about the partnership published in the Guardian which starts,

‘there’s an air of desperation about a spirits company turning to a notorious alcoholic who is on the wagon, but then look at the other celebrities who are busy pushing booze’

The shame is Dos Sueños sounds like it potentially could be a good tequila and has an interesting story to tell and is doing some good out there with its various charitable endeavours.

There are certainly better, more credible and less risky ways to tell that story than through a celebrity best known for his debauchery, drunkenness and unpredictability as Sheen.

PS. Whilst I cannot condone violence against women no matter how intoxicated anyone is, best of luck to Sheen staying sober and taking control.

Once upon a time, celebrities may be used for a specific campaign, but the trend in tequila at the moment seems to be around celebrity ownership.

When linking your brand to a celebrity whatever they do reflects on you and vice versa, hence the clause in many ambassador contracts about termination if they do or say anything that could bring the brand into disrepute. When said celebrity ambassador is also a co-owner, it’s even more complicated and this makes any association all the more risky.

My only hope is that these brands are taking as long term a view to creating the product and building the brand as to the celebrity associations – as celebrity involvement alone is not a sure fire route to financial success.


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