NBA star James Harden, who launched a line of affordable wines last year, is now starring in a campaign that playfully challenges the snooty conventions of the category.
Watch James Harden’s first campaign for his wine brand
“Work Hard, Play Harden,” from the Atlanta-based shop Majority, makes fun of pretentious rituals associated with wine such as swishing, uncorking, decanting, sniffing and tasting. The ads deliver a message of inclusivity and fun, providing a contrast to how wine has historically been perceived, especially by communities of color, according to Accolade Wines, which launched the J-Harden Wines line with Harden in 2022.
J-Harden Wines offers a cabernet sauvignon and a red blend (each retailing for around $20) and an Italian prosecco (around $15).
The initial ad spend will be a digital media buy through Meta with ads running on Facebook and Instagram, according to Ming Alterman, Accolade’s marketing director of the Americas.
The wines and Harden have proven to be an international hit: A livestream shopping event on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, with the influencer Crazy Brother Yang in August sold 10,000 bottles in seconds. The sellout prompted Harden to perform an impromptu somersault on set.
“I’m incredibly proud of what we accomplished in our first year of J-Harden Wines, starting with massive success in the U.S., then expanding worldwide, and now introducing our first-ever campaign,” Harden said in a press release. “As a Black-owned business owner, I want to make wine more available to all communities. I want people to know they can enjoy some of the finer things in life and do it at an affordable price.”
Winemakers have looked to celebrity tie-ins to drive new customers to the category, most notably Treasury Wine Estates’ 19 Crimes, with labels and marketing featuring Snoop Dogg.
Harden’s involvement in the J-Harden brand goes beyond an equity stake, Accolade said, working closely with the company on the taste, look and feel of the brand. Each label features a silhouette of Harden’s face, including his iconic beard.
“James has brought an elevated energy and enthusiasm to the wine industry through the launch of J-Harden Wines and its success over the last year,” Alterman said in a press release. “We’ve accomplished so much together in a short period of time, and the response from his fans and our consumers has been incredible.”