When the Philadelphia Eagles kick off their home opener on Thursday Night Football, the National Football League team will also start a new sponsorship deal with Gran Coramino, the luxury tequila brand co-founded by comedian, entrepreneur and Philadelphia native Kevin Hart.
“It’s a big deal! To be in partnership with the Eagles and aligned with Philadelphia in any way is a good and dope feeling!” Hart told CNBC’s Frank Holland in an exclusive interview about the agreement.
The deal with the franchise will include signage inside the team’s Lincoln Financial Field, branded bars in the stadium and marketing on the Eagles’ digital platforms.
The Eagles hope to seize on the recent success of celebrity spirits brands and a rise in tequila sales, as many U.S. drinkers drop beer in favor of liquor. Gran Coramino is the latest luxury spirits brand to try to gain market share through a league or team partnership, as the association between beer and sports starts to fade.
“I think sales will grow simply based off of awareness and that awareness will go from inside the stadium to outside the stadium,” Hart said. “The hope is that people fall in love with the product, and they will buy it to have it at home.”
Kevin Hart with a bottle of his Gran Coramino tequila.
Source: Global Brands Equities
Eagles Senior Vice President of Corporate Partnerships Brian Napoli said the opening of the branded bar “will add value and another layer to the premium experience for Eagles fans and guests in attendance.”
For Hart, a lifelong Eagles fan, the deal is particularly sweet. Ahead of the Eagles’ Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in February, Hart posted an Instagram video claiming to have paid $16 million for an actual eagle that he named after the team’s quarterback Jalen Hurts.
Hart told CNBC, “It’s a massive win! I’ve been with the team through ups and downs.”
Beer is the alcoholic drink most synonymous with sports. Ads tying together beer and baseball started as early as 1909, when Budweiser used the headline, “BALL PLAYERS USE BEER IN TRAINING,” quoting the president of the then-Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers, according to Sports Illustrated.
In recent years, spirits brands have made a push into sports sponsorships with major American leagues. The effort has come as spirits overtook beer in market share for the first time in 2022.
Jagermeister became the official shot of the National Hockey League in 2019 and the two renewed the deal in 2022. Distill Brands inked a deal to be the official vodka of Major League Baseball in 2022.
Hennessey, a brand owned by luxury giant LVMH, became the first “global spirits partner” of the National Basketball Association in 2021. Global Spirits giant Diageo also reached an agreement to be the first spirits sponsor of the NFL in 2021. It now sponsors 20 NFL teams.
The companies said the deals have helped them reach new consumers and build brand strength.
“Through our relationship with the NFL, we have seen positive and measurable lift in impact to the perception of our brands in the eyes of consumers,” Rick Pineda, director of sports for Diageo, told CNBC. “Our league and team partners have been very collaborative in finding innovative ways for our iconic brands to reach their passionate and engaged fan bases.”
Jean-Baptiste Descours, NBA global program lead for Hennessy, also told CNBC the sponsorships are “about awareness and visibility.” He added the cognac brand increases marketing efforts when there are higher levels of fan engagement.
“When the season tips off, Christmas games, All-Star, we focus on those type of events and even more focus on the playoff season because fans tune in,” he said.
Spirits are often marketed with a focus on history, country of origin or distilling process.
Gran Coramino is made with agave from the Tequila area of Mexico, as all tequilas are. Hart co-founded the brand with Juan Domingo Beckmann, CEO of Becle, which is the parent company of Jose Cuervo tequila, and James Morrissey, CEO of Global Brand Equities.
However, Hart aims to differentiate Gran Coramino from brands in those companies by partnering with the Eagles, a Super Bowl contender known for its hard-nosed play.
The deal also gives the brand direct contact to a higher-end consumer with ample disposable income. The average NFL ticket will be $377 in 2023, a 60% increase from the previous season, according to TicketSmarter. Its CEO told USA Today, “demand has never been stronger.”
“Look at the fan base. If you are able to do anything that can get you to that consumer, that’s only a pro. There are no cons!” Hart said.
He added, “If we can be the spirit of choice for the Eagles, that’s a big deal. The takeaway is this is an inclusive drink, one appropriate for all environments — family, friends, corporate luxury, you name it. We feel like our product fits within it all.”