"Clear Thinking," this week's cover story about Spring44 vodka and gin, outlined the rise of vodka, which went from a rarely-consumed liquor to the country's most popular spirit between the end of Prohibition and the mid-1970s. That was mostly thanks to marketing, including, in addition to brilliant ad campaigns, product placements in movies and celebrity endorsements.
Spring44 opted out of bringing on Hollywood's A-Listers to push its product, but here are five celebrity endorsements of vodka that helped make the category worth billions of dollars:
5. Woody Allen, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Julie Newmar -- Smirnoff In the 1960s, Smirnoff, which pioneered vodka marketing with the famous "It leaves you breathless" slogan, launched a series of magazine ads featuring Hollywood's hottest stars. Woody Allen, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Julie Newmar all made appearances, and Allen later referenced his stint with the vodka maker in a stand-up comedy routine called "The Vodka Ad."4. Zach Galifinakis -- Absolut
Zach Galifinakis really hit the mainstream in 2009 withThe Hangover
, but before he was a mega-star, he was a comedian who created a couple of shorts featuring Absolut vodka. The company allowed him to do anything he wanted, so he signed up Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim to assist, unveiling a trio of ridiculous -- and hilarious -- YouTube videos.
3. Sean "Diddy" Combs -- Ciroc Ciroc spent a few years selling its vodka, which is made from grapes instead of grain, without the help of a star. But in 2007, Ciroc struck a deal with Diddy, whereby he'd get half the company if he would be responsible for endorsing and marketing it. Diddy agreed and immediately proved that celebrity endorsements work -- according to Ad Age, the company has grown 552 percent, bringing in many millions of dollars more in revenue, since Diddy came on in 2007.2. Dan Aykroyd -- Crystal Head Vodka
Dan Aykroyd shares something in common with his character inGhostbusters
: an interest in the paranormal. That's what pushed him to explore the myth of the thirteen crystal skulls, which have all sorts of weird otherworldly powers, and then, oddly, establish a vodka brand that drew inspiration from his findings. This vodka, poured into a skull-shaped bottle, is filtered through Herkimer diamonds because, apparently, that imparts the same spiritual vibes as the original crystal skulls.1. Chelsea Handler -- Belvedere
This late-night comedy show host loved vodka so much, she actually titled a collection of essaysAre You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea
. But her spirit of choice was Grey Goose, which she drank on television for several episodes, until she publicly switched her allegiance to Belvedere, endorsing it because she "found out Belvedere has no real sugar in it" and "they have a distillery in Poland and that spells serious to me," according to an interview inAd Age
. Also, Belvedere -- not Grey Goose -- sponsored her book tour.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.