Justin Timberlake has no shortage of brand deals to pick and choose from, between pop-up concerts for Target, and handling creative direction for Bud Light Platinum last year, but now he’s stepping up his game, and taking his tequila to the big-leagues.
Timberlake has partnered with Sauza Liquors (the brand is owned by Beam Inc., one of the largest spirit manufacturers in the U.S. and home to several major liquor brands including Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Courvoisier and more) to re-launch his own version of the potent beverage as part of the Sauza franchize. It will be dubbed Sauza 901, named both for Timberlake’s hometown area code in Memphis, Tennessee, and conveniently for that magical hour when the party (read: trouble) really gets started.
Timberlake first launched the product back in 2009, after working with the Tequilera Newton distillery in Jalisco, Mexico. The quality is seemingly there - in 2012, Timberlake and his co-founder Kevin Ruder took home a gold medal from the esteemed San Francisco World Spirits Competition, but there was plenty of room to grow in terms of marketing and distribution of the product.
The former mousketeer is ranked among those stars that have the reach and engagement with fans that make for an ideal partner for a brand. With about 30 million followers on both Facebook and Twitter, one of the highest numbers of new followers on Instagram in the past year at around 3 million , and close to 900 million video views on VEVO in total, Timberlake has a massive fan base, and lands in the top 99th percentile across most networks, as well as on US radio.
Bill Newlands, President, North America of Beam Inc., on the choice to work with Timberlake, says the company has seen great success in the past working with founders that are heavily engaged and invested their product, such as Bethany Frankel and her Skinny Girl line of alcoholic beverages.
The brand wasn’t looking to partner with just anyone willing to lend their name. “We’re not interested in going out and doing a talking-head routine. We believe in finding a founder. Yes, he happens to be a celebrity and that has a lot of value,” says Newlands, “but he has a lot of passion for this.”
"First and foremost, I am excited about the quality of what’s in bottle," says Newlands. "Second of all his ability to influence a lot of the people that follow him – that is a nice combination."
The triple-distilled, 80-proof agave-based liquor, at a suggested retail price of $30, will be one of the premium tequila products offered by the Sauza franchize. “Many brands have a good, better, best, no matter what price-point you start at, ” Newlands explains. “This just adds one more layer of luster to the overall Sauza brand.”
Then there is the question of whether the venture conflicts with other brands deals. According to reports, Timberlake’s partnership with Anheuser-Busch has come to an end, though there is no official statement available on the brewery company’s website. As for his relationship with Target, Newlands only sees this as advantageous. In his mind the retail giant delivers affordable premium, very much in line with what Sauza is offering with 901.
Brand/artist partnerships have become increasingly popular in recent years. Brands are investing in collaboration with artists beyond the standard endorsement deal, to help develop influence and reach with consumers. The one-time stigma around artists “selling out,” is a stigma no more.
So cheers, Justin. Bottoms up.
Photo Credit: Peter Dutton/Wikimedia Commons
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com. Liv Buli is the resident data journalist for music analytics company Next Big Sound. Buli is a graduate of New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and her work has appeared in Newsweek Daily Beast, Forbes, Billboard, Hypebot and more.