Annual Edition 'Buying Power of
Black America' report breaks down billions in expenditures Black
consumers are responding to tighter economic condition by focusing more of
their spending on items and services that improve their homes and
lifestyle. That's one of the trends revealed in the 15th annual report,
"The Buying Power of Black America," published by Target Market News. The
report analyzes spending for black households in 2008 and finds that
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produces it own reality series on BET to tap growing ethnic markets
By Paul Sonne
The Wall Street Journal (October 4, 2010) As it looks to win over more minority drinkers in
the U.S., spirits company Diageo PLC is launching a reality series on
Black Entertainment Television in which its Smirnoff vodka brand plays a
The eight-episode reality series, called "Master of the Mix," is the
latest example of how consumer brands are increasingly taking to the
airwaves with bought-and-paid-for content they produce themselves, and
it shows how liquor companies are becoming more comfortable with TV,
despite some criticism that their presence reaches underage consumers.
By making its own content, Diageo is seeking complete control over how
its brand is represented.
The BET series follows seven disc jockeys competing in music-mixing
challenges, with one contestant having his or her "record scratched" --
eliminated -- at the end of each show. The judge is DJ Kid Capri; the
host is hip-hop producer Just Blaze; and the side character is a Latina
mixologist named Alex, the face of Smirnoff in the series, who rewards
each episode's survivors with Diageo cocktails, interviews the DJs by
the bar and shows viewers how to mix drinks, as opposed to beats.
Funded, created and produced entirely by U.K.-based Diageo, the world's
largest liquor company by volume, the show is scheduled to make its
debut on Viacom Inc.'s BET and its sister channel Centric in early
November. It comes as other spirits companies, including Pernod Ricard
SA and Bacardi Ltd., cultivate TV programs of their own.
Bacardi's Grey Goose vodka has an entertainment subsidiary that puts on
the BET musician-profile show "Rising Icons," the Sundance Channel
interview show "Iconoclasts," the Golf Channel program "Grey Goose 19th
Hole" and other projects. Pernod Ricard joined with NBC Universal's LXTV
to create an Absolut bar-tending contest show that started airing last
year on local NBC affiliates in major U.S. metro areas; its new season
launches this month.
Most of those efforts, however, have involved the beverage companies
creating programming they sponsor—not inserting their brands as major
"We're moving from a sponsor model to content creator," says David
Tapscott, brand director for Smirnoff vodka, who leads Diageo's
reality-show project. Mr. Tapscott says "Master of the Mix" is unabashed
about featuring Smirnoff front and center, though the integration is
meant to be seamless so the show doesn't resemble an infomercial.
"It would become apparent and would not feel natural to the audience, to
our consumers, to BET's viewers," he says. "So when we show up we don't
apologize for how we show up, but we only play in the places within the
show where Smirnoff is naturally expected to be." That means by the bar
or in the club.
"Master of the Mix" comes as part of a push at Diageo to pump up
marketing to U.S. minority groups -- what Diageo calls multicultural
consumers, a term that encompasses African-American, Hispanic and Asian
drinkers, as well as the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender
These groups have become target consumers for big spirits companies in
the U.S. partly because of shifting demographics. Diageo estimates that
80% of U.S. sales growth in its core categories is going to come from
these groups by 2015. The percentage of Diageo's above-the-line U.S.
advertising spending—or its outlay dedicated to brand building in mass
media—that is directed to the multicultural market has risen from 18% in
the fiscal year ended June 30 to 22-25% this year, says Jim Moseley,
Diageo North America's senior vice president for consumer planning and
The U.S. is Diageo's most important market. North America accounted for
34% of the company's £9.78 billion ($15.49 billion) in global sales in
the fiscal year ended June 30. Mr. Moseley says that at least half the
young people who reach the legal drinking age in the U.S. next year will
Such statistics have changed Diageo's approach to marketing. "It used to
be: OK, we'll fund our 'general market advertising' and if we have
anything left over, we'll go do some placement on African-American or
Hispanic-language television," Mr. Moseley says. But in recent years
there has been a radical overhaul, he says: "There are inclusive plans
from the get-go."
Now, Diageo develops an inclusive master message for each
brand—Smirnoff's is“"original nightlife,"” Johnnie Walker's is “"keep
walking" -- and then executes the concept differently for minority
groups or subcultures in the U.S. to make it relevant.
That means creating a Smirnoff reality show featuring trendy clubs on an
African-American channel, and launching a Johnnie Walker sponsorship of
the New York Yankees that celebrates Hispanic baseball heroes.
Diageo says having full control over "Master of the Mix" is crucial. "It
has allowed us to be very aggressive in making sure our message is
seeded properly, and not just tagged on," Mr. Tapscott says. Instead of
affixing Smirnoff, the show began with Smirnoff, and was tailored to the
brand's "original nightlife" idea. Diageo owns the show's original music
and can sell it online alongside other merchandise, potentially making
the venture profitable.
Smirnoff became the first brand to break a decades-long voluntary ban on
hard-liquor advertising on network television in 2001 when a Smirnoff
responsible-driving ad ran on NBC during "Saturday Night Live." The
following year, NBC backed away from its move to put hard-liquor ads on
national network TV, but today networks still run hard-liquor content on
local affiliates. An ad for Pernod Ricard's Absolut vodka that ran
during the Grammy Awards last year was the first hard-liquor ad to run
on CBS-owned local stations.
Some critics aren't happy with liquor companies making their own TV
"These are new methods of marketing which are likely to circumvent the
more traditional controls," says Thomas Babor, a professor of public
health at the University of Connecticut. David Jernigan, head of the
anti-alcohol group Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, criticized the
industry standard of airing alcohol-related content only during slots
where 30% of the audience is under 21. He says it overexposes teenagers
who go to bed watching late-night TV.
"We take our marketing code very seriously and our products are only
intended for people that are above the legal drinking age," Diageo said
in a written statement. "We have a clear and proven commitment to