The death of the role model

Remember role models? They were the athletes, celebrities and other influencers who we looked  up to as kids. Mine included Joe Namath, Paul McCartney and Muhammad Ali. And, while each had a dark side (Joe Willie had a fondness for the ladies, Sir Paul liked his hallucinogenic drugs and Ali perfected, if not invented, trash talk), none ever purposely endorsed products that were bad for kids.

Snoop-dogg-smokingBut, that was then and this is now. Now, we have role models such as Charlie Sheen, Barry Bonds and the Kardashians. They're all train wrecks. But, their personal lives aside, some of today's role models have become dangerous because they're endorsing products and services that are anything but good for our nation's kids.

Take Snoop Dogg. Please.

  An article in Monday's New York Times profiles a new advertising campaign for Blast from Colt .45. Snoop stars in the fully integrated campaign. In a YouTube video, for example, the Dogg poses in a white fur coat, surrounded by models in skimpy dress and holding a can of Blast. So what's my problem? Well, it turns out that Blast is the latest, coolest, cutest and hippest gateway beverage that introduces kids to the wonderful world of alcohol. One alcohol industry watchdog calls Blast, which comes in flavors such as grape and raspberry watermelon, an “alcopop."

Tom Burrell, author of Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority, says: “What is happening here is an obvious attempt to foist this stuff on young African-American men. Colt .45 has invested in the black consumer market for years, and if they weren't looking for an African-American audience they wouldn't be using Snoop Dogg.”

But, why should Snoop care? According to industry analysts, the flavored malt beverage category generated some $967 million last year. And, the Dogg's getting a long, green sip of that brew courtesy of his endorsements. Proving what a terrific role model he is, Snoop's been nice enough to mention Blast on his Facebook page (where he has eight million followers) and on Twitter (where 3.1 million fans follow him). He also mentions Blast in "Boom", a single in his new album, 'Doggumentary'. Daren Metropoulos, who owns Pabst, Colt's parent company, says Snoop's adoration of the toxic beverage is “…just him being a true partner and saying I'm not just an endorser.” That Snoop. What a stand-up guy!

Would Namath, McCartney or Ali have knowingly promoted gateway drugs in their prime? It's hard to say. But, I doubt it.

In the meantime, we're left with role models like Snoop Dogg who make sweet-tasting, brightly colored, highly potent alcoholic beverages seem cool to unsuspecting, underage kids. Snoop is one dog who's leading his pack astray and being paid handsomely to do so. And, here's the saddest part of the tale: we're doing nothing to stop Pabst, Colt .45 or Snoop.

10 thoughts on “The death of the role model

  1. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, Ray. It’s not Snoop’s fault that he’s a sleaze and willing to take anyone’s money to say or do anything. It’s Pabst’s fault for enabling him to lure unsuspecting young people into relationship with a serious and potentially life-threatening disease (aka alcoholism).

  2. Charles Barley said it best back in 1993: “He’s not paid to be a role model.”
    It is obvious many people forego moral integrity for the love of money. And, as far as I know, there aren’t too many celebrities who’ll apply their fame to philanthropic efforts. That’s why I view celebrities solely as entertainment, and role models as those who’ll actually inspire maturation in another’s life. Is it not a mistake to expect real-life guidance from an entertainer?
    Snoop Dogg’s ethics are questionable at best, but I cannot blame him for capitalizing on industry. While he contributes to a larger problem, I find it hard to hold him accountable for under-aged drinkers getting Blast-“ed.” This product is meant for adult consumption, and the law supports it. Blame should be directed towards the absence of real-life role models, an industry that perpetuates immorality with minimal moral standard, and our culture’s infatuation with celebrity.
    Rappers, P Ditty and Jay-Z, have business deals promoting for their own brands of liquor, and celebs representing other genres market energy drinks that pose a variety of potential health risks.
    Colt 45’s marketing tactics are suspect, and I do not agree with their campaign initiatives. Their utilization of social media as a primary focus, colorful product packaging, bubbly letters and fruity flavors clearly targets a younger demographic. And, the alcohol content is nearly three times as potent as beer at a fraction of the price. It’s similar to meth as a gateway drug. Legislation should restrict the alcohol content and regulate product packaging for consumer protection.
    Colt 45’s Blast campaign simply activates Snoop’s mass appeal and rides his coat-tails to boost its own brand recognition. Not so different from their last spokesperson, Billy Dee Williams. I wonder if Billy Dee or Snoop acknowledges they’ve exploited themselves and their fans, and if they think it was worth the money. In essence they’ve sold-out themselves and their communities, doing nothing near benevolent. In this, I find fault.

  3. Totally agree, Alyssa. What sort of message are the powers that be at Rutgers sending when they pay Snooki more money than Toni Morrison? Shame on them.

  4. (First, excuse my lack of introduction, I signed in to comment on TypePad through my WordPress blog account, KarmaWaffle. My name is Alyssa Bronander, I am a graduating senior at Marist College studying PR, Communication Studies and Global Studies.)
    I would not go as far as to say there are no longer any role models, but celebrity, and therefore media coverage and audience attention, is more likely to fall on those whom lead entertaining lifestyles rather than admirable or fulfilling ones. Today’s youth look to reality television, YouTube and social networking to learn about the world and it is in these outlets where the number of views outweighs the quality of content. I believe this shift is best exemplified in the recent controversy over Jersey Shore’s Snooki earning more for a short appearance at Rutgers University than Nobel-Prize winner Toni Morrison did for being the institution’s commencement speaker.

  5. Really interesting post, Ghost. Paul Simon’s lament, ‘Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?’ takes on added pathos in this context. Today’s ‘role models’ clearly revel in their sleazy ways.

  6. It was sometime around 1991, and I was sitting in a conference room in at a midtown PR agency enjoying a pizza with a handful of young staffers when someone slapped in a VHS of “Truth or Dare,” a then-recently released
    documentary about of Madonna.
    During this viewing, I remember turning to a female colleague, who was around 25 and seemingly professional and ambitious, and remarking about how Madonna had recently admitted how she had taken various turns on the proverbial “casting couch” in order to land a record deal. I’ll never forget this colleague’s response: “Who cares how she did it — what’s important is that she made it.”
    And that, to me, has been the fork in the road between the role models as defined in RepMan’s original post and the aptly-expressed definition of “what I’d like to be known for” suggested by Karmawaffle.
    When the marketing textbooks of the future are written, I think the authors will cite the phenomenon known as Madonna as a turning point.

  7. You provide some very interesting perspective, Karmawaffle. So, the problem lies not in ourselves or in our stars, but in our definition of the phrase role model. You’re saying there is no such animal anymore?

  8. Spot on, as always, Julie. Ronald McDonald was clearly the Snoop Dogg of his era. FYI, I just read in Ad Age that the fine folks at McDonald’s are starting to distance themselves from Ronald in their branding and marketing initiatives since he’s become so associated with the obesity epidemic. Maybe Snoop and Ronald could record a song together? Suggested title: ‘Killa Kalories.’

  9. Unfortunately, endorsing products that are bad for children isn’t new — only the tactics are.
    Advertisers have just replaced cartoon characters (Joe Camel for cigarettes, Tony the Tiger for sugar-frosted corn flakes, leprechauns for marshmallow-laden breakfast cereal) with real-life cartoon characters like Mr. Dogg.
    That’s one thing you would never see Mick Cody endorsing.

  10. I agree with all that you have said above in regards the ethics of targeted marketing to a young audience. D-O-double-G was an intentional pick to attract an African-American audience, as would be many a main stream rapper (especially those with a strong social media presence, Kayne West for example, although Snoop seems to be surprisingly less controversial).
    The hole in your comparison to the role models of earlier times lies in today’s society’s novel definitions of “fame” and “role model” and more importantly the broadening gap between the two. You mention your early admiration for athletes, celebrities, or influencers whom were famous for their skills or ideals. As seen in your cite of the Kardashian sisters, “fame” can now be defined as upholding an entertaining lifestyle (be it by sex tapes, unplanned pregnancies, or serial-dating professional athletes). As a young adult who has grown up as this paradigm has shifted, I have seen that “role model” is no longer synonymous with, “what I want to be when I grow up,” but rather, “what I’d like to be known for”.
    Can we blame Snoop Dogg for racking in the cash for promoting a potentially dangerous product? His songs already purposely endorse illegal substances and irreverent behaviors. Ergo, it is not dangerous that these celebrities are endorsing dangerous products, but rather that they are use for endorsement at all. Even if Blast was replaced by V8, it is the Gin & Juice lifestyle thats being sold.