Diddy’s Ciroc Vodka and the disproportionate marketing influence of African Americans

My brand is rocket fuel. It would take this brand 10 years to get to where I can take it in one year.”Sean “Diddy” Combs

Diddy signed a 2007 deal with Diageo PLC entitling him to a 50% stake in Ciroc Vodka.  Here’s how business has done since he signed, and for simple comparison, how the Air Jordan sneaker business did for the same period after Michael Jordan signed his famously successful shoe contract with Nike.  It’s a succinct graph but in both categories sales were either flat or growing unremarkably up to the contract:

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It’s one of many new deals between the alcoholic beverage industry and proven influential lifestyle brands in industry moguls and icons.

In the March 2011 Forbes column “Why Diddy Will Be Hip-Hop’s First Billionaire” , Forbes staff noted:

“…Executives at Diageo could never have expected just how much Diddy’s presence would boost sales. In 2007 sleepy Ciroc was moving cases at a rate of 60,000 per six months, or 120,000 per year. In 2009 Diddy’s second year with the brand, Ciroc moved 400,000 cases. This year Ciroc is on pace to sell more than 1 million cases. The boom was fueled in large part by Diddy’s diligent shilling—on billboards, in lyrics, on Twitter and even through a self-proclaimed nickname, “Ciroc Obama.”

Diageo management framed Ciroc’s success after the Combs partnership:

“Only twice in my career have I seen an immediate response in our brand tracking”…“We saw it really take off in the African-American community, and it has started to broaden its appeal. Throughout the entire economic recession, it was one of the few brands that never slowed down.”… “As a community, African-Americans are leaders in terms of style, fashion and image,”…“They can take brands and make them very big themselves.”–Jim Mosely, Diageo Senior Vice-president for consumer planning 

Other examples of non-textbook breakthrough African American marketing influence can be found in industries of fashion and accessories, food and non-alcoholic beverages, fragrances, electronics, automobiles, and even travel.

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