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AriZona's Arnold Palmer Brand Aiming To Top Snapple

Arnold Palmer has a lot to smile about these days, but what he lights up the most about is the success of his drink combination.

In the 1950's, Arnold Palmerstarting mixing his lemonade and iced tea. But the breakthrough that turned what is otherwise called Half & Half, came in at a restaurant in Palm Springs, Calif., years later.

"I said, 'Give me a glass of tea and a glass of lemonade,'" the now 82-year-old golf legend recalled. "I mixed it up and a lady in the restaurant heard me do that and she ordered a tea and she said 'I want a Palmer.' She called it by name and I said, 'Boy, maybe I should do something with it.'"

While Palmer turned his sporting success into a business empire from golf courses to a host of endorsements, he didn't fully capitalize on the iced tea-lemonade combination until a company called Innovative Flavors put together a business plan with the goal of licensing Palmer's name to beverage companies for the drink.

The largest brand to license Palmer's name and image has been AriZona, which currently has 40 different products featuring the name, ranging from light versions, to green tea and peach flavors.

Source: Arnoldpalmer.com

"The younger consumer that doesn't know who Arnold Palmer is, what he did, but they're picking up this beverage and saying, 'Boy, this thing tastes good," said Rob Marciano, executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer for AriZona.

The company recently got approval to make a malt beverage that is currently being sold in 26 states.

"There has not been a sports icon, to Arnold Palmer's degree, in an alcoholic version with the amount of success we've already accomplished on the non-alcoholic side," Marciano said.

AriZona's Palmer sales will top $150 million this year and, with the brand growing 50 percent a year, it figures to pass Snapple's tea sales next year.

"Snapple products have been out there for a long time," said John Craven, CEO of BevNet.com, a beverage trade publication. "Consumers naturally have a desire to try new and different things and that's not Snapple anymore."

Craven says the brand owes its success to "that perfect mix of branding, flavor, packaging and availability."

Although the are other iced tea and lemonade drinks, "nobody has a product that tastes as good as our and nobody else has the iconic, legendary golfer and businessman Arnold Palmer behind the brand," said Chris Byrd, co-founder of Innovative Flavors.

Said Palmer: "Today, kids will say, 'Give me a Palmer,' and they don't even know who I am."

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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