The top five celebrity endorsements of vodka
"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 with The 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.