This week, former NBA star, Shaquille O’Neal, made the announcement for the upcoming launch of his own brand of vodka, “Luv Shaq.” O’Neal partnered with Devotion Vodka, the same American brand that brought us the world’s first protein (casein)-infused vodka back in 2010.
Celebrity alcohol enforcement goes back as far as Orson Welles in commercials for Paul Masson champagne (too drunk to read his lines) and Frank Sinatra dressed as a cowboy to promote Budweiser. Today, Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Ciroc is a household name for vodka and the second-largest ultra-premium vodka in the U.S. (right behind Bacardi’s Grey Goose). And to many people’s surprise, Blues Brother, Dan Aykroyd, is to thank for the cult-following behind Crystal Head Vodka.
So what makes “Luv Shaq” so unique? Despite the name, O’Neil touts that the vodka would be “reasonably priced.” Special Agent Dale Cooper would be pleased, but so would low-income communities. While Russia raises vodka prices to fight widespread alcoholism, O’Neil and Devotion are targeting smaller spenders.
According to a study by the Center on Alcohol marketing and Youth, low-income neighborhoods in Baltimore were eight times more likely to have carry-out liquor stores than white or racially integrated neighborhoods. Furthermore, black youth ages 12-20 years old are more exposed to Ciroc (47% more) and Grey Goose (76% more) vodka advertisements compared to youth in general.
And should someone remind O’Neil that back in September, he was waving a piece of broccoli with a carrot puppet on YouTube? With a doctorate in leadership and education, it’s surprising Dr. O’Neil hasn’t taken the responsible role of a teen mentor.
The alcohol industry spends more than $4.5 billion each year marketing its products. Alcohol marketing in the U.S. is still largely self-regulated and laws vary from state to state. While advertisements can be removed from billboards – music videos and neighborhood liquor stores are tricky.
But lets not be worried. O’Neil assures us that the vodka will be “athlete friendly;” “Luv Shaq” will be sugar and gluten-free. Thank you, genie, for magically removing things that vodka doesn’t hold to begin with.