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Diddy inks promotional deal with Burger King

Miami Herald, 10/10/06

Sean ''Diddy'' Combs has cut a whopper of a deal -- as a pitchman and entertainment marketing consultant for Burger King.

The multiyear contract is part of the Miami-based burger chain's strategy of trying to connect with young consumers through non-traditional advertising, such as Internet viral marketing and Xbox video games. It is also the latest example of companies trying to draw on the popularity of rappers -- a sometimes risky marketing move because of their controversial image.

Combs, who is being paid an undisclosed amount, will launch his partnership with Burger King through a co-branded channel on called DiddyTV. He will also star in an upcoming advertising campaign.

The interactive channel features a personal video message from Combs and clips from his first solo collection in five years, Press Play, which will hit store shelves on Oct. 17.

Burger King will also sponsor Combs' upcoming cross-country tour to promote Press Play and will be represented at events, including consumer listening parties and appearances by Combs at high schools.

The deal marks a new business venture for Combs, whose New York-based company Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group boasts annual revenues of more than $400 million from records, music publishing, apparel, artist management, film and television production and restaurants.


Neither Burger King nor Atlantic Records executives were available on Monday for comment. In a statement, Burger King's Russ Klein, president of the company's global marketing, strategy and innovation, said Combs was chosen because of his stature as a ``pop culture icon.''

''We're thrilled to be able to collaborate, using the breadth of his talents as an artist, entrepreneur and change agent to impact and inspire our guests,'' Klein said in a statement.

Despite Combs' high-profile lure to youth, signing him up as a Burger King ''brand ambassador'' may be a somewhat risky move because of his checkered past, said Miami Beach marketing consultant Richard Weiner. Combs has been linked to highly publicized shootings, assaults, motor vehicle violations and lawsuits.

''What happens if he gets involved in some scandal?'' Weiner said. ``They are definitely taking a chance. My guess is that they have a very good contract where they can pull out quickly if something happens.''

The huge pull of hip hop among youth is alluring to marketers, but several companies have found that using rappers, who sometimes espouse sexually explicit, violent and misogynistic lyrics, can be problematic.


In 2003, Pepsi found itself in hot water when Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly called for a boycott after the company hired rapper Ludacris to plug its products. Pepsi dropped Ludacris, who was later picked up by Budweiser.

This summer Cristal champagne got into trouble. Cristal was enjoying free advertising from mentions in rap songs until its president was quoted as saying he didn't embrace the association with hip hop. Rapper Jay-Z called for a boycott, causing the chief executive to issue a statement backing away from his original comments.

Last year McDonald's announced it was seeking rap artists to name-drop the Big Mac in their songs.

The marketing plan was criticized by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

Burger King's deal shows that it's willing to take the risk as it courts its customer base, consultant Weiner said. ''There are celebrities who have wider appeal and youth appeal -- and probably less controversial rappers,'' he said.



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