Shaquille O'Neal is expanding his business ventures. The basketball star has announced he will introduce coconut-flavored vodka early next year. The former Los Angeles Lakers star has teamed up with Devotion Vodka to create “Luv Shaq,” a gluten-free, sugar-free, coconut-flavored vodka.
Shaq O´Neal, whose estimated net worth is $250 million, will join a long list of celebrities with their own liquor brands. Among them: Sean “Diddy” Combs' Cîroc flavored vodka, Bruce Willis' Sobieski vodka, Dan Aykroyd’s Crystal Head Vodka and Jay-Z´s vodka, Armadale.
Just having a celebrity attached doesn't mean a drink will sell. In 2011, music producer Pharrell Williams launched Qream, a line of vodka-based, flavored cream liqueurs. Now he is suing his partner, Diageo, for the new brand's failure.
George Duval, mixologist at the New American restaurant Elberta Restaurant & Bar in Brooklyn, NY, says Shaq's marketing team should take a unique approach. “I am not sure of their marketing strategy but if they can tap into the NBA following and Shaq’s crossover appeal, they may have a shot. (No pun intended),” he points out. Luv Shaq will need to stand out from the other celebrity brands. “I would also suggest for him not to repeat the same flavors as Ciroc," notes Duval. Cîroc offers a coconut-flavored vodka, among other flavors.
But will Shaq's celebrity appeal attract customers? “I do know that drinkers aspire to drink what celebrities are drinking,” says Duval. “P. Diddy is known to pop bottles and have a good time. So for him, Ciroc has made sense and dollars. Will that translate to all celebrity figures? I do not think so. But…I know for a fact that the bigger established brands are taking notice. It does seem like the once-powerhouses are playing catch up to brands like Ciroc and trying to mimic their marketing strategies evident in their new ads.”
Duval says Shaq could turn a spirits venture into a successful one, but he may need to tweak the idea. “The only real issue I see is that the vodka market is so over saturated. It may serve him better to come out with another less saturated spirit such as rum or gin, or even a high-end cognac,” offers Duval, who says that at Elberta, especially during its happy hour, “classic cocktails are making a huge resurgence, also those drinks made with the use of fresh ingredients.”
And if Shaq Luv is positioned correctly, Duval predicts "it may be a win win."