With Hagar doing the shilling and others doing the distilling, Cabo Wabo's distribution grew from 37,000 cases in 1999 to almost 150,000 in 2006. Two years ago, as rapper 50 Cent was making $100 million off the sale of his 10% stake in Vitamin Water to Coca Cola (KO - Get Report), Hagar sold an 80% share of Cabo Wabo to Campari (CPR) for $80 million.
Though film director Francis Ford Coppola and others have succeeded similarly with wine, Hagar made it OK to not only endorse but produce hard alcohol. Others followed, most notably Jay-Z after buying Armadale vodka in 2002 and becoming a co-brand director of Anheuser-Busch-InBev's (ABI) Budweiser Select brand in 2006.
The same year, designer Roberto Cavalli debuted a vodka that was double the price of the so-called super-premium Grey Goose to rave reviews. Italian-American actor Danny DeVito got into the Limoncello business a year later, and saw his sales double by 2008. Timberlake's 901 Tequila, meanwhile, was launched in four cities last month.
Perhaps no one has had more success cashing in on celebrity alcohol than Drinks Americas (DKAM). The company partnered with Donald Trump on vodka and with Willie Nelson on Old Whiskey River Bourbon. Their celebrity cache lessened brand-building promotion costs and increased the chance of someone trying a shot.If there wasn't demand for such products, Drinks Americas certainly created it. Trump's line sold 100,000 cases in its first year, while Willie has been good for 7,000 cases a year since launching in 2001.