Athlete-owned alcohol brands are the perfect example of athletes taking advantage of an industry that feeds off trends, fads, and innovation. They see it as an opportunity to expand their investment portfolio and give themselves a greater purpose outside of their responsibilities as a professional athlete.
And it should come as no surprise when you consider how many athletes drink alcohol on a regular basis. Whether it’s an ice-cold beer on a day off, a glass of wine after a game, shots of tequila in the offseason, or a champagne shower after winning a championship – athletes enjoy alcohol much like the rest of us.
With more and more athletes catching on to the potential in the wine and spirits industry, athlete-owned alcohol brands are becoming more and more common. In fact, you’d be surprised at some of the athletes who have already entered the industry – including a lot of your favorite athletes and sports figures.
15 of the Most Popular Athlete-Owned Alcohol Brands
One of the newest athlete-owned alcohol brands to hit the market is Gentleman’s Cut Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, a whiskey brand owned by Stephen Curry – one of the greatest point guards of all-time. He announced the new business venture in May and is excited to learn more about the industry.
“This rich, complex, and bold bourbon is the perfect offering to commemorate life’s great occasions and will be part of a raised-glass toasting moment in the lives of my fans, friends, and family,” he said in a statement – adding that he was involved in practically every aspect of bringing the bourbon to life.
Curry – a four-time NBA champion, two-time MVP, and future Hall-of-Famer – isn’t the only athlete taking an interest in the wine and spirits industry. In honor of those bringing innovation and excitement to an industry that could use it, let’s take a look at some of the most popular athlete-owned alcohol brands.
15. Travis Kelce – Casa Azul Spirits
In February 2023, Casa Azul Spirits announced the addition of Travis Kelce as an investor. Casa Azul is a tequila soda that was initially launched in August 2022 and separates itself from other tequila sodas by using real spirits, as opposed to malt liquor. It’s available online and in some retailers across the US.
Kelce’s partnership with Casa Azul was announced in February 2023, right before he captured his second Super Bowl. “I’m excited to turn up and announce my investment in Casa Azul Tequila Soda. To all the other hard seltzer brands out there, know your role and shut your mouth!” he said of the investment.
14. LeBron James – Lobos 1707 Tequila
Lobos 1707 is a tequila and mezcal brand launched during the COVID-19 pandemic. LeBron James fell in love with the tequila brand while on vacation in the Mediterranean and decided to join the company as an investor – along with his business partner, Maverick Carter, and several fellow NBA players.
“If it tastes great in Akron, Ohio, then I know it’s the right thing. I had to make sure it wasn’t the boat in Italy that was getting me,” James said of the investment in November 2020. “Being able to have a great story behind it, great storytelling, and a meaning behind it—that’s what really gravitated me towards it.”
13. Klay Thompson – Diamond & Key
Klay Thompson has always been a wine enthusiast, but it wasn’t until 2017 that he grew interested in the wine industry. That’s when he teamed up with Joe Harden, a former basketball player and renowned wine winemaker, and Nolan Arenado, a family friend and third baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Together, they founded Diamond & Key, a wine brand from Panek Vineyard in Napa Valley’s St. Helena. “Learning about the winemaking process and the dedication, commitment and patience it takes to bring it all together reminds me of the game I’ve played all of my life,” Thompson said of the investment in 2022.
12. Derek Jeter – Bespoken Spirits
Bespoken Spirits is a popular whiskey brand launched in October 2020 behind roughly $2.6 million in seed funding from Derek Jeter – a Hall of Fame baseball player – and T.J. Rodgers – a Silicon Valley scientist and entrepreneur. The company uses technology to speed up the process of aging whiskey.
“It’s an innovative technology company,” Jeter said at the time of its launch – adding that the company has an opportunity to ‘disrupt an industry that needs disrupting.’ The brand doesn’t rely on barrel storage during the maturation process but, instead, utilizes a three-part process called Tailored Wood Finishing.
11. Dwyane Wade – Wade Cellars
In 2014, Dwyane Wade teamed up with Napa Valley vintner, Jayson Pahlmeyer, to create Wade Cellars – a wine brand best known for its Wade Cabernet Sauvignon, sourced from Napa Valley. It’s also home to the Three by Wade collection, which includes Rosé, Chenin Blanc, and Cabernet Sauvignon options.
“You know, the whole purpose of this [brand] is that we want this to grow as you grow. You experience amazing wines, your palate grows. My palate is still growing and I’m going to grow. I’m going to learn more about wine and I want to get better at it,” Wade said of the company to Rolling Stone in 2022.
10. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson – Teremana Tequila
In March 2020, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson partnered with bodybuilder Dany Garcia and liquor veterans Jenna Fagnan and Ken Austin to create Teremana Tequila. Launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, the tequila brand has quickly become one of the most popular athlete-owned alcohol brands today.
“My hope was to make a tequila that people loved. My family and I have been consumers of tequila for many years and the hopes and expectations initially were just to make a tequila that people enjoyed. That was the bottom line; that was always my north star,” Johnson said of the brand to Rolling Stone in 2021.
9. Fred Couples – Couples & Co Wines
While many athletes are just now entering the wine and spirits industry, Fred Couples is somewhat of a veteran – having been learning about wine for nearly 40 years. He began a quest to find the right partner in 2008, which is when he came across Mitch Cosentino – who founded pureCru Napa Valley in 2008.
Together, Couples and Cosentino founded Couples & Co Wines and released their first white wine in 2010 – a 2009 Napa Valley Chardonnay. “Mitch is a great winemaker,” Couples told Wine Business back in 2010. “I thought it was the right time and place to put my own name, along with Mitch’s, on a label.”
8. CJ McCollum – McCollum Heritage 91
CJ McCollum was introduced to wine by his wife, Elise McCollum, roughly 10 years ago – around the same time he joined the Portland Trail Blazers of the NBA. In 2020, he took his enthusiasm for wine to an entirely new level with the launch of McCollum Heritage 91, a culmination of his growing passion for wine.
McCollum dedicates the company to his wife by placing an image of her favorite flower, the anthurium, on the wine bottle – calling it ‘a representation of their relationship and their passion for wine and sharing it with those they love.’ The beautiful flower is a symbol of happiness, abundance, and hospitality.
7. Wayne Gretzky – Gretzky Estates Winery
Wayne Gretzky made a living on the ice, but his fascination with wine began as a young child when he watched his grandfather pick and press his own grapes. Following in his grandfather’s footsteps, Gretzky decided to launch his own great Canadian wine company with the creation of Gretzky Estates Winery.
Founded in the heart of Niagara-on-the-Lake wine country, Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery and Distillery is a 23,000-square-foot facility that opened in the spring of 2017. His goal was to create a collection of wine that people don’t just buy once because of the name on the label, but buy again because it’s good.
6. Tom Seaver – Seaver Vineyards
While many athletes have no idea what they’re going to do once they retire from the sport they’ve dedicated so much time, energy, and effort to, Tom Seaver always knew what his plan was. “I’m going back to California to raise grapes,” he said to his brother in the 1970s when asked about his plan.
In 1998, a decade after he retired from the MLB, he and his wife purchased 116 acres on Diamond Mountain in Calistoga and they started planting vineyards a few years later. While Tom Seaver died in August 2020, the company he and his wife build remains – and they’ve got some incredible wine still!
5. Rickie Fowler – The Finnish Long Drink
In August 2020, professional golfer Rickie Fowler entered the alcohol industry when he joined The Long Drink Company as a co-owner – he was joined by music producer Kygo, who is also a co-owner. The two stars were introduced to the company by Miles Teller, an actor and fellow co-owner of the alcohol brand.
“I’m really excited to join The Long Drink team as an investor. When Kyrre (Kygo) and Myles Shear sent me a couple cases to try, I knew I wanted to get involved. Long Drink really stood out to me from the rest of the canned cocktails and seltzers that I have tried,” he said of the investment back in August 2020.
4. Jorge Masvidal – Recuerdo Mezcal
In 2020, Jorge Masvidal joined fellow MMA artist, Conor McGregor, as he entered the alcohol industry with his own brand of booze – Recuerdo Mezcal. The drink is ‘made from choice Agave Espadin plants,’ according to the official website, and originates from Oaxaca – a popular city in southern Mexico.
“I’ve tasted a number of mezcals, but until Recuerdo Mezcal I hadn’t found one I was willing to put my name behind,” he said of the investment in 2020. The company boasts four traditional brick ovens for mezcal production and is responsible for more than 27 acres of crops with 14,500 Espadin agave plants.
3. Peyton Manning – Sweetens Cove
Sweetens Cove is a renowned golf club near Chattanooga and Nashville with an infamous tradition – taking a shot of whiskey at the first tee. In 2020, Peyton Manning and fellow athlete, Andy Roddick, teamed up with master blender Marianne Eaves to create a whiskey that embodied this tradition.
“I’ve been very honest about my amateur upbringing in the bourbon space,” Manning said of the brand in 2022. The company has done something many bourbon and whiskey lovers have tried to avoid for years – putting the two unique tastes together in the same bottle. And that’s how Sweetens Cove was born.
2. Michael Jordan – Cincoro Tequila
The story behind Cincoro Tequila began one night when five NBA team owners – including Michael Jordan of the Hornets – met for dinner and bonded over their love for tequila. He was joined by Jeanie Buss of the Lakers, Wes Edens of the Bucks, and Emilia Fazzalari and Wyc Grousbeck of the Celtics.
“While the tequila space may be crowded, we are fierce competitors and our portfolio reflects our passion and commitment to produce truly delicious and exceptional expressions,” Jordan said of the company in 2022. In fact, it was Jordan who taught the group how to sip tequila properly during that famous dinner.
1. Dennis Rodman – Bad Boy Vodka
In 2013, Dennis Rodman utilized his ‘bad boy’ persona to create a new line of vodka called ‘Bad Boy Vodka.’ He partnered with Premium Brands, Inc. to spearhead the collection, which began distribution in late-July 2013. It came at a time when Rodman was known for making headlines due to his lifestyle.
“Bad Boy Vodka characterizes a tough and edgy, yet smooth and classic taste; a perfect representation of whom and what I am all about,” Rodman said of the vodka brand at the time of its release. Jorge Olson, the President and CEO of Premier Brands, described the taste as ‘incredible’ and the bottle ‘a work of art.’
Other Athlete-Owned Alcohol Brands Worth Checking Out
The number of athlete-owned alcohol brands seems to increase every year – with Stephen Curry and Travis Kelce becoming two of the latest athletes to join the club. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more famous athletes enter the industry in the near future – it seems to be the thing-to-do these days.
Other athlete-owned alcohol brands include The Seventh Estate (Carmelo Anthony), Black Knight Wines (Gary Player), Digits Bourbon (Scottie Pippen), Intercept Winery (Charles Woodson), 7 Cellars (John Elway), Arnold Palmer Wine (Arnold Palmer), True Vodka (Mike Piazza), and Faldo Wine (Nick Faldo).
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The athletes above have taken a strong interest in the wine and spirits industry and, for the most part, have been rewarded as a result. When done right, athletes have a lot to gain in the industry and can leverage their massive fanbase to increase awareness and bring a lot of hype to their new business.
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