Crisis-hit Spanish wine maker cuts celebrities

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Indy Lifestyle Online

For over three decades a top producer of Spanish sparkling wine known as cava has recruited top stars such as Sharon Stone for its annual Christmas television ad.

But this year Freixenet will not be hiring celebrities due to the economic downturn and will instead repeat a spot it used in 2008 featuring Spain's synchronized swimming team as a cost-cutting move.

"This year we are not up to making a big blockbuster," Pedro Bonet, a member of the family that founded Freixenet near Barcelona over a century ago, was quoted Tuesday as saying by Spanish newspapers.

"We were aware that ostentation was not necessary, that moderation was necessary," he said, according to free daily ADN.

Cava is a popular drink in Spain to toast friends and family during year-end celebrations but Freixenet now earns 70 percent of its revenues outside of the country, according to business daily Cinco Dias.

Oscar-winning US actress Liza Minnelli was the first to perform in a Freixenet Christmas advertisement, singing the theme song from her hit film "Cabaret" in 1977.

An ageing Gene Kelly reprised "Singing in the Rain" in 1981, twirling his umbrella and clicking his heels as golden cava bubbles fell from the sky while Welsch sang "I'm So Excited" in a see-through top in the spot that aired four years later.

"Dallas" star Victoria Principal sang "Fever" in 1987 at a time when the television series was top of the ratings all over the world.

Among the other big names who have featured in its television spots are Paul Newman, Demi Moore and Meg Ryan, according to the company's website.

The Spanish economy, Europe's fifth largest, entered into recession during the second half of last year as the global credit crunch hastened a correction already underway on its property sector, the driver of over a decade of growth.

The nation's unemployment rate hit 17.92 percent in July, the highest rate in the European Union and almost twice the eurozone average, causing household consumption to drop.

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