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Consumers Drinking Up Celebrity Wines: Nielsen Research

Alcohol products sporting a celebrity's name or otherwise linked to a famous individual are gaining popularity in the U.S., with wine in a leading role, according to the latest research from The Nielsen Co., based in Schaumberg, Ill.

Gaining marketing leverage from bold-faced names as varied as film director Francis Ford Coppola, former NFL coach Mike Ditka, professional golfer Greg Norman, lifestyle goddess Martha Stewart, and acting icon Paul Newman, celebrity wine sales are up nearly 19 percent in grocery stores since last year, and represent 0.9 percent ($41.8 million) of total wine sales.

Likewise, celebrity spirits sales show the same growth rate (19 percent) in grocery stores and represent 0.3 percent ($7.5 million) of the total spirits category. In liquor stores, celebrity spirits are growing at an even faster rate, showing a nearly 21 percent increase since last year, compared to celebrity wines' liquor store growth rate of 8 percent.

"Celebrities are increasingly lending their names to wine and spirits, for a variety of reasons," said Richard Hurst, s.v.p./beverage alcohol for Nielsen. "While some celebrities have had a long-standing personal affinity for these product categories, others view these products as extensions of their established 'lifestyle brands' and have connected with willing supplier partners to produce and market them. Some suppliers, particularly wine suppliers, do not have the resources to launch big advertising and promotional campaigns and a celebrity can lend a brand instant recognition."

Since 2000, celebrity wines have shown steady growth in dollar sales and category share, said Hurst, noting that several factors are fueling their growth. "First, existing brands are expanding and gaining new distribution through new line extensions. Second, more celebrities have launched their own brands in the past year or have had suppliers launch products under their names. And third, savvy marketers leverage the 'celebrity' benefit into expanded marketing programs via in-store vehicles, outdoor events, and traditional and online media."

Nielsen's research shows that while promotions such as in-store advertising are driving incremental sales, celebrity wines do not necessarily receive much more "retail paparazzi" support.

Fifty percent of celebrity wine volume is sold on promotion - - about the same as the table wine category as a whole. When it comes to pricing, however, consumers are paying an average of $8.50 per 750ml bottle of celebrity wine, versus $5.75 per bottle of table wine. Most celebrity wines are priced between $12 and $15.
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