In his video for his summer smash “Give Me Everything,” Pitbull isn’t shy with his endorsements. In particular, Voli Vodka makes a number of appearances: at the beginning of the video, with Pitbull pouring himself a glass, unashamedly brandishing the label towards the camera, while a very sexy lady, equipped with a red dress and sly grin, reclines next to him, and later, when the drink appears in a party scene at a bar laden with the bottles (it appears to be the only drink available at this particular club) and more good looking ladies. Even the least marketing savvy viewers likely recognize that Pitbull was paid to endorse Voli Vodka, but what’s actually surprising is that Pitbull is not just a celebrity cashing a one-time check; he actually owns a stake of the company.
This weekend’s Los Angeles Times, the paper took a look at this growing trend. It’s not just Pitbull following in the footsteps of Entourage‘s Vinnie Chase, it’s also big names like Diddy (Ciroc vodka), Ludacris (Conjure cognac), Justin Timberlake (901 Tequila) becoming multi-hyphenate marketing magnets. Now, obviously, it’s beneficial to pair an influential celebrity and a brand together in order to promote a product and make sales. And with an increasing number of performers partnering with brands and even developing their own products, now the artist has even more to gain than a one-time payment for product placement. Music and product sales, it seems, are being increasingly intertwined, and the repercussions of this are not only becoming glaringly apparent, they’re painfully obvious in a “water is wet” sort of way. But haven’t we always seen the conflation of art and commerce? From the clothes artists wear to the very precise ways in which they are positioned to align with certain values is often engineered towards brand promotion — albeit more subtly than in Pitbull’s latest foray.
So why are we so much more perturbed by obvious branding as we are by the subliminal positioning that artists are often subject to? Is it simply a case of “out of sight, out of mind?” In some respects, the obvious branding of videos like Pitbull’s is less insidious, with viewers being told straight up exactly what it is they’re getting themselves into, the same way we do when Jennifer Lopez jumps into a Fiat or Britney Spears releases a new perfume. The things we don’t think about — the sunglasses Pitbull wears, the technology being used in the background, the furniture and even his tie — are signifiers as much as the Voli Vodka, and even though we’re less consciously aware of them, they still shape our opinions of the Pitbull ethos, what Pitbull says is “cool” and what we should do in order to emulate Pitbull (should we want to emulate Pitbull). Where do we draw the line? We’re thinking that education is the key — as brand and celebrity integration intensifies, we should just try to take everything with a grain of salt, but keep on dancing nonetheless.
Pitbull, ‘Diddy’ And Other Rappers Step Up Alcohol Endorsements [The Los Angeles Times]