What gift do you get the estimated $346 million-dollar-man that has everything? Well, not champagne, according to Sean "Diddy" Combs, the first African-American to converge with a major liquor branding powerhouse such as Diageo.See Also:
"I haven't had a glass of champagne since like '95. I'm a vodka drinker," reveals the hip-hop mogul, across his large, well-polished, wooden desk adorned with a grey stone reading the word "Faith" across it, in the mid-town offices of Sean John Clothing.
With his well-tailored suit, perfect handshake and unrelenting eye contact, BallerStatus.com sat down with the entrepreneurial giant known as Diddy, to discuss his recent merging with the world's largest Wine & Spirits Company and their new ultra-premium brand of vodka, Ciroc.
In a recent press conference, executives from Diageo, discussed their future revenue projections could see profits up to $100 million dollars. However, Diddy insists this figure is "to just get you excited" and those profits are a long time away (see "Diddy Breaks Into the Vodka Market"). Considered a pioneering venture for an African-American male, Diddy proclaims, his new product, Ciroc vodka, is officially, The Official Vodka Of New Years Eve. Why you ask? "Because Diddy said so."
BallerStatus.com: You mention in your press conference that this is a pioneering new venture for African-American males. Do you feel as though the wine & spirits industry has been hard area for African-Americans to break into?
Diddy: I think the spirits industry is a very controlled industry and it's based on a lot of old time tradition. It's very regulated and hard to get into. It takes a lot of money and a lot of distribution and those opportunities haven't come to us in this manner. You would think an African-American male would get into the industry by having a spirits that was marketed to African-Americans. I wouldn't have done that and that was something that was made clear and Diageo agreed to it. They are the #1 Wine & Spirits in the world. So, it definitely is a proud moment for me to take advantage of what I've learned from my ancestors... not be used as a pawn, to be able to look at something clearly and be able to be like, "This doesn't have 'African-American' written all over it. This does not have 'hip-hop' all over it." You'll have your nay-sayers come out, but if you look clearly from day one, this is something that is different.
This venture will be looked at, just as when I got into fragrances and that was looked at. Now with other African-Americans having fragrances... to see Usher come back and Beyonce be involved and Mariah. It wasn't like that before that. Or in the world of television and television deals as producers, this will be looked at just like that. Like anything I've been involved in, it will be analyzed and looked at, so there's a greater responsibility on my shoulders to do it the right way. So people of color, or any person that has an idea... so that they can be judged on the product and the talent they have.
BallerStatus.com: Can we now expect a Bad Boy track promoting Ciroc?
Diddy: I wouldn't force it on a record, you know? If it happens, I think that's the beauty of the hip-hop community. This is not geared towards me targeting the hip-hop community. The hip-hop community always wants something better. They respect the finer things in life. Who doesn't want a better vodka in the hip-hop community? Mercedes doesn't target toward to hip-hop community... the community just has a high taste level. This will be the vodka of choice for that community, without me having to insult them by having an ad with a hip-hop song behind it. You know what I'm saying? If its good product, people will hear about it.
BallerStatus.com: So, your going to be involved in every aspect of the distribution, consumer relations, and marketing of the new spirit venture?
Diddy: I mean, I think it was a smart deal for them to use my talent as a brand master. To brand the product, to be in charge and take the lead on the advertising, the consumer relations, where it's sold, how it's sold, the overall strategy for the brand. I'm not required to be in any of the advertising for the brand. I will be in the advertising in the beginning, but they just really wanted to tap on me as a business-man.
I think [because of] my track record of building brands, breaking them quickly, and breaking them out the box. Demographically, my music is sold to a group of diverse people, with the majority being white. My clothes, my fragrances, and my television shows have wide demographic, so Diageo were smart to do their research.
BallerStatus.com: What are some of your ideas for the marketing campaign if you aren't planning on gearing it toward the hip-hop community?
Diddy: Step one in the advertising campaign would just be to get the name recognition out there. Getting it recognized and getting it known that Ciroc is pronounced "S-ur-rock." [For people] to know that, they can request it at a bar and its level of luxury. That's an ultra-premium vodka. It's not a regular three-tiered vodka and that it is affordable. It's separate because it is the only vodka made by French grapes. Other vodkas are distilled by potatoes. So, it'd be getting that information out there. Phase one.
The next phase is to make it known for New Years Eve and the holidays, that this is the drink of choice. This is a time when people are going to be celebrating, having parties, trying new beverages. This is a time when they would organically try Ciroc. And that it is available and it's The Official Vodka Of New Years Eve, because Diddy said so. And I'm not really wrong when it comes to this party stuff.
BallerStatus.com: It takes money to make money. With all these new ventures and investments making you large profits, out of curiosity, what would you say is your biggest monthly expense?
Diddy: [Repeats question] Probably my two houses. I'm a real-estate collector. From my houses in New York, to New Jersey, to Long Island, to Atlanta, To L.A., Miami. My favorite house would probably be between The Hamptons and Miami. I love being on the water, so I have two houses on the water. So, with all those houses, I gotta keep them looking brand new.
BallerStatus.com: After years of being heavily promoted by the urban community, a representative from Cristal was quoted as saying racist and discriminative remarks towards the hip-hop culture. How did you feel about that and was this something conscious of when aligning yourself with Diageo?
Diddy: Yea, I was really insulted at first. Me and Jay-Z organically really supported and never asked for a discount for bottles. So, it really came from left field when they insulted us. We took that to heart.
We mind our businessmen... we can't be bought on a record. A lot of times they want you to say something on a record, but we say how we feel. So, it was clear we needed to find our own brand that we believe in as businessmen.
BallerStatus.com: So, I'm assuming vodka is you drink of choice and not champagne now?
Diddy: I don't even drink champagne no more. I haven't drunk champagne since like '95. I'm a vodka drinker. So, everybody that has been sending me champagne for years, I usually just give them to my friends at parties at the house.
I'm a vodka drinker, so I've been lookin' for something that tastes better, that's more luxurious and that's smoother.. and that's Ciroc. Primarily, I'm a vodka drinker, but I might have a shot here and there.
BallerStatus.com: How often do you drink?
Diddy: I would say I drink probably about twice a week. I've been having to work and when I'm in the studio, I might drink a little more, but I always drink responsibly.
Another thing that's important, because I do reach a higher audience, in every interview and everywhere I go, I've been saying, "This message is not for you unless you're over 21 years old." Nobody's making me say that, that's just my level of responsibility, because I know I have a level of power. This is for people that want to drink responsibly. Even if your over 21, if your not drinking responsibly, than you can go spend your money elsewhere. We want to preserve our sexy. We don't want no nasty drunk people drinking and driving and endangering people's lives.
BallerStatus.com: Have you had a conversation with your children about that responsibility?
Diddy: Nah, they not even into drinkin'. I mean, I lead by example. My kids don't see me drunk in the house and I don't drink the point where it's too much. I'm human. I'm not saying I've never been intoxicated, but, you know, that's not my style and that's not the style of this vodka. Ciroc, The Official Vodka Of New Year's Eve.
MTS Centre, Winnipeg - May 26, 2008
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