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Wine, Rap, and the Power of Product Placement

troy_ave_merlot.jpgNo one should ever underestimate the power of the American media and entertainment universe. Pinot Noir producers tried valiantly for years to increase consumption of that grape variety by the American public with little success. Then a fun little movie comes out that glorifies the grape, and sales shoot through the roof.

Rap may well be the best thing that ever happened to Cristal champagne, or, perhaps according to them, the worst. Rapper Jay-Z and others were constantly weaving the $250 champagne into their lyrics (and serving it at the clubs they owned), and sales predictably skyrocketed. But then in 2006 Cristal implied in not so many words that they were less than thrilled with the association, and Jay-Z publicly denounced the brand and started rapping about Krug and Dom Perignon.

But only for a little while. He soon had a new favorite bubbly, called Ace of Spades, produced by Armand de Brignac, which looked tailor made for the part of being swung about in a rap music video. I took one look at the gaudy bottle and assumed he had chosen it more for the packaging than the wine. But it turns out that this wine may well be the single best cross promotional marketing idea in history.

According to a little bit of investigative journalism published last spring in the Atlantic Monthly, there is a very good probability that Jay-Z (or his brand handlers) may have come up with the Ace of Spades brand out of thin air. If not, they may have at the very least, brokered a deal with the producers to profit handsomely from the spike in Ace of Spades sales as a result of Jay-Z's newfound appreciation. Product placement 101.

Of course Champagne is now yesterday's thing, having been bumped out of the limelight these days by the most unlikeliest of contenders, Moscato di Asti. I personally believe that's simply because the wine does a nice rhyme with "nasty." But the real question, of course, is whether Jay-Z has prudently invested in Moscato, or whether rappers like Nelly have simply taken a page from Jay-Z's playbook by releasing their own branded versions.

For anyone who prefers their pap a bit more red, there's always Troy Ave's Merlot [Note: explicit lyrics]. Who wants to put money on the fact that Kendall Jackson knew better than to object?

Comments (9)

02.19.12 at 4:33 PM

"Ground control to major Tom. . ." What brand of cloths do you wear and what wine do you drink up there beyond the clouds? "Can you hear me major Tom?

The Dude wrote:
02.19.12 at 6:24 PM

From what is still the greatest rap song ever recorded:

"Attracted to a freestyle put in effect
You listen to my man while you sipping Moet"--Eric B. & Rakim, 1987

When I was a kid there were only two wines I wanted to try: Martini & Rossi Asti Spumante and Moet & Chandon White Star. Years later when I worked in a wine store we used to have to lock up the Cristal. But kids would also still try to steal White Star. We eventually locked it up as well. It sat right next to Salon which was never taken.

I don't see rappers pushing particular brands (or customers asking for particular producers) of Moscato. It's just a popular wine for some inexplicable reason, like Santa Margherita PG on the Upper East Side, or Domaine Ott on Long Island. In Bed-Stuy it's Moscato d'Asti.

On an even weirder note, I stopped into a small wine shop in Clinton Hill a few years back and they said they sold tons of Patrick Bottex Bugey-Cerdon. I picked up a bottle to take to a friends nearby and almost everyone was familiar with the wine. I wouldn't have thought that in a million years.

Mike wrote:
02.20.12 at 3:51 PM

It's no wonder that wine makers have taken this tact. They have been looking to expand their demographic for years and Rap music is one way to go.

Barolodude wrote:
02.21.12 at 1:20 PM

OG = Old-vine Grenache?

Barolodude wrote:
02.21.12 at 10:19 PM

OG = original gangsta or owner grower?

alanc230 wrote:
03.01.12 at 6:42 PM

I would imagine some vintners are thinking to themselves, "Hey, whatever works" as far as increasing sales, even if they would prefer not to be associated with rap and rappers.

Big Frank wrote:
03.12.12 at 6:20 PM

I view Alexander I as the early Jay z and the Widow Cliquot's Champagne as his "Cristal", worked then and works now.

Michael wrote:
03.20.12 at 3:21 PM

Ha - that's pretty funny. And this kind of reminds me of the Avion tequila brand, which seemingly launched via the popular TV show, "Entourage". It's actually a pretty smart marketing move, and Jay-Z, believe it or not, has a pony in that pile of poop.

Mark wrote:
06.17.12 at 12:23 AM

amazing and agreed....

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