Vodka firmament becomes star-studded

When it comes to vodka, celebrity connections pop up in any number of ways.

The celebrity mags and cable TV gossip shows keep reporting on the likes of celebrities such as Donald Trump and Dan Aykroyd appearing around the country, pushing the particular vodkas in which they have a heavy financial stake. For Trump, it's his own Trump brand -- no surprise. For Aykroyd it’s Crystal Skull, sold in a bottle shaped like a transparent skull.

Professional athletes are part of the parade, too. Football Hall of Famer John Elway has a stake in, and touts for, something called Nude Vodka. Veteran golfer Fuzzy Zoeller has Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka, which he introduced over the summer.

Then there is model/actress Elizabeth Hurley, who has been getting a lot of press from a recent UK interview in which she breathlessly revealed that now that she’s age 40 she has switched from coffee and wine to vodka as her beverage of choice to help maintain her famous figure.

Even a film classic is getting into the act. Paramount Pictures and Iconic Brands are planning a spring 2010 launch of The Godfather Italian Organic Vodka, named for the series of films.

"The celebrity niche in the drink sector these days is somewhat in vogue and lots of people are trying to do it," said Richard DeCicco, CEO of Iconic Brands. "I think Paramount is realizing what a powerful brand 'The Godfather' is. The fact that (it) has been the No. 1 grossing movie of all time, there seemed to be a nice opportunity."

But these all are just efforts in search of a market. They’re certainly not up to the track record of a certain rapper/actor/producer/clothing designer/entrepreneur of who you may have heard.

He may not hit all demographic groups, but Sean Combs (above) -- a/k/a/ Puff Daddy, then P-Diddy, now just Diddy, unless I've missed a metamorphosis or two -- connects with enough of them to help hike Ciroc vodka sales.

The many-markets mogul began promoting the French vodka just two years ago this month, and sales already have increased by 400,000 cases in that period.

Combs, widely believed to have received a share of the company in addition to major money for his efforts, will have more products to push before long.

Mark Strachan, Ciroc marketing director, has revealed that two new flavors of the grape-based vodka will be introduced to the U.S. market in early 2010: coconut and red berry.

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