It's been five years since Sean "Diddy" Combs has had a single in the Billboard Hot 100 top 10, but that hasn't stopped more than dozen A-list artists from re-creating one of the rap mogul's biggest hits-his equity partnership with Ciroc, which has earned him more than $100 million since he became the then-struggling Diageo vodka's brand manager in 2007. In the years since that landmark partnership, many rappers, singers and even country stars have entered the celebrity spirits category--Cee Lo Green (Ty Ku sake), Enrique Iglesias (Atlantico rum), Jay-Z (Ace of Spades Champagne), Pitbull (Voli vodka) and Fergie (Ferguson Crest wine, Voli). Not all of these ventures have been successful. Lil Jon's attempt at creating his own winery was discontinued in 2011, Jermaine Dupri failed to make soy-based 3 vodka a must-have, and Pharrell Williams just sued Diageo for $5 million for failing to meet agreed-upon distribution requirements for his Qream liqueur.
Many acts are teaming with independently distributed products in hopes that their investment and visibility will lead to an acquisition from Beam Global, Diageo or Pernod Ricard. "The goal is to do between 100,000 and 500,000 cases, depending on price point, getting you closer to an exit strategy," says Ryan Schinman, CEO of entertainment branding agency Platinum Rye.
So which artist-backed brands have the most cachet at retail? Billboard partnered with Adam Rogers, senior analyst at Beverage Information Group, for a custom report of eight of the most visible celebrity spirits and their sales at retail in 2012. (Figures do not include bar and restaurant sales.) Though Combs is the category king, some of the results (Jim Beam's Kid Rock-affiliated Red Stag, for example) may surprise you.