Social Media Stars Anastasia ‘Stas’ Karanikolaou and Zack Bia Launch Sunny Vodka - Social Media Explorer
Social Media Stars Anastasia ‘Stas’ Karanikolaou and Zack Bia Launch Sunny Vodka
Social Media Stars Anastasia ‘Stas’ Karanikolaou and Zack Bia Launch Sunny Vodka

It’s always sunny in California, as the legend goes. That saying may take on a new flavor with the launch of Sunny Vodka, a sprightly new spirit from social media influencers turned entrepreneurs Zack Bia and Anastasia “Stas” Karanikolaou.

Bia, a nightlife fixture and indie record label owner who is (casual, NBD) pals with Drake, NBA star Kyle Kuzma and “Euphoria” standout Dominic Fike, has a cool half-million (and growing) Instagram followers. Karanikolaou has a coveted off-the-runway outfit and is a close friend to Kylie Jenner. She is known to her nearly 11 million Instagram followers as “Stassiebaby” or merely “Stas.”

Sunny Vodka is a small batch, American-made, corn-based spirit made by two West Coast buddies. It’s just in time to host the promised post lockdown summer parties. The venture represents an emerging trend in business: social media stars flexing their global visibility to expand into self-owned brands, rather than merely promoting other people’s products.

“[The opportunity] fell into our laps,” Karanikolaou says. “This makes so much sense for us. It’s our passion to host get-togethers, throw parties and organize dinners. To be able to have our own line of vodka at events is just a dream.”

Bia, an experienced DJ, party host and music producer, echos this sentiment. “Music and spirits, they both meet right in the middle of nightlife and events,” he says. “There’s crossover appeal.” His expertise in producing music and nightlife events is seen as a natural evolution to promoting what he and his partners hope will be the next big thing in spirits, especially for younger consumers itching for return-to-normalcy celebrations.

To be sure, launching a vodka brand, when the category has, for several years, been America’s top selling spirit by volume, makes a certain amount of business sense, current events notwithstanding. Vodka sales saw an increase of 4.9 percent in 2021. They went from $341m to $7.3billion in revenue according to the latest data from The Distilled Spirits Council of America. Last year, more than 78 million 9-liter vodka cases were sold in America. This was an increase of 1.6% over the previous year. Ready-to-drink cocktails (36 million 9-liter bottles sold) and American whisky (29.7 millions 9-liter case sold) came in second and third.

“The growth in vodka is still there, albeit slower than other categories,” James Morrissey, founder of Global Brand Equities, says. Global Brand Equities partnered with Post Malone to produce his highly successful rose Maison No. Sunny Vodka also has 9 as a partner. “There’s been very little innovation [in vodka]Recent years have seen a significant increase in this category. This category is still relatively young. Brands have been slow to pivot and change to the way that a new era consumers, like Zack and Stas, are living their lives.”

Bia and Karanikolaou both acknowledge the negative attention vodka is getting in the aftermath of the Ukraine/Russia conflict. “There never is a perfect time to do anything, but you have to control what you can control,” Bia notes. “If you hold back on it for too long, that right moment might never come. You have to create it.”

The nearly two-year-old project was scheduled to be released before the downturn in the news cycle. Sunny Vodka is made in South Carolina from corn grown in the U.S. The Sunny Vodka launches today at $24.99 for a 750ml bottle. Available in stores across California, New York, Florida, Las Vegas, Florida, and New York, it is also available online. As an American-made spirit, it might luck into satisfying America’s thirst for vodka while staying outside the global-events fray.

What will they do to promote their latest products, two of the biggest social media stars? Surprisingly, or maybe not, they seem to be diverging from their expected actions. Sunny’s Instagram, as recently as the day before launch, was set to private mode, had just under 8,000 followers, and had no posts. The bottle made some appearances over the past year in the founders’ social media, but its online presence wasn’t, pre-launch, set up with splashy photos and a filled-out grid.

Instead, Sunny’s team set out to create what they call “an organic” social media strategy.

Over the last year, Sunny’s founders threw parties with their glitterati friends and handed out disposable cameras. “Let our friends take pictures throughout the night,” Bia says. “Over the course of the past couple of months, we have a bunch of these nights captured in film from everyone’s different perspective. Those might not ever even see the light of day but that’s the kind of content we’re creating, versus ‘hey tag this, go to this link.’”

“People don’t the ad-looking posts,” Karanikolaou adds. “Those [candid Sunny] photos are the ones that I’m most exited about. It’s just having a good time. It’s not a staged pose. It’s not staged. It’s just us enjoying ourselves.”

Sunny’s founders are hopeful that the brand will ease into a summer that will feel more optimistic than the past two years. “Last summer came and went, and things were still weird,” Karanikolaou says. “This summer, I feel like people are really starting to feel like things will get back to normal. All we can do is to be hopeful.”

“Sunny is happy,” she adds. “We bring the sunshine wherever we go. Even when it’s raining.”

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About the Author

Adam is an owner at Nanohydr8. He really loves comedy and satire, and the written word in general.

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