Diageo buys Aviation Gin—and with it, Ryan Reynolds’ creative talents
Diageo has scooped up Ryan Reynolds-backed Aviation Gin and its parent company Davos Brands in a $660 million deal. The acquisition gives the liquor giant one of the fastest-growing brands in the super-premium gin segment. But perhaps just as importantly, the deal brings the creative talents of Reynolds, who’s brought widespread attention to Aviation via hilarious social media-fueled campaigns for the gin.
A Diageo spokeswoman confirmed to Ad Age that “Ryan will continue to be very closely involved in creative and marketing plans for Aviation” and that his agency, Maximum Effort Marketing, “will also continue to work with Ryan and the Davos team.”
“A little over two years ago, I became an owner of Aviation Gin because I love the taste of Aviation more than any other spirit,” the actor said in a statement today. “What I didn’t expect was the sheer creative joy learning a new industry would bring. Growing the brand with my company, Maximum Effort Marketing, has been among the most fulfilling projects I’ve ever been involved with. I want to thank Diageo for their incredible team and passion. We’re so excited for the next chapter of Aviation Gin, which, I promise, will require just as little reading.”
Aviation’s majority owner, Davos Brands, also markets Astral Tequila, Sombra Mezcal and TYKU Sake, which are all part of the Diageo acquisition. But Aviation is the clear star. It grew sales volume by more than 100 percent last year, according to Diageo. Some of that growth is undoubtedly related to the awareness Reynolds brought the gin via viral campaigns like one late last year that spoofed a widely mocked Peloton ad. Reynolds and his Maximum Effort shop quickly convinced the actress who played the so-called “Peloton wife” to shoot a video that showed her drowning her sorrows with friends—a-not-so-veiled shot at the original ad, which critics slammed for insinuating that the woman’s husband gifted her the bike to encourage her to work out more.
In May, Reynolds put his witty spin on the wave of cliche-filled pandemic-influenced ads that have hit the airwaves since March. Aviation’s ad starts innocently enough reminding viewers about the “simple pleasure of going out.” But then it transitions into scenes of regretful next mornings, like “waking up to find you now have a problematic back tattoo” or surrounded by inflatable dolls.
The edgy marketing stands out in the liquor industry—which often relies on more conventional marketing tactics. It will be worth watching if Reynolds and Maximum Effort will get the same creative freedom under Diageo.
In a statement, Debra Crew, president of Diageo North America, said: “The entrepreneurialism of the Davos team and Ryan Reynolds combined with Diageo’s strengths will help drive the continued momentum of the brand in North America and we feel confident that with Ryan’s global reach that Aviation Gin can expand internationally.”
Diageo has a history of working with celebrity-backed booze brands. In 2017, it acquired George Clooney’s Casamigos tequila brand in a deal valued at $1 billion. And in 2007, Diageo made Sean “Diddy” Combs the face of its Cîroc vodka brand, and since then the hip-hop mogul has had influence over the brand’s creative direction.