Jay-Z Puts A Cork In It

“My motto, stack rocks like Colorado/Auto off the champagne, Cristal’s by the bottle” -Jay-Z
Frederic Rouzaud, managing director of Louis Roederer, the company that produces high-end champagne, Cristal, told The Economist he found rappers fascination with the product, “curious.”
Asked by the magazine if the association between Cristal and the “bling lifestyle” could be detrimental, Rouzaud replied, “That’s a good question, but what can we do? We can’t forbid people from buying it.”
Multiplatinum rapper and chief executive officer of Def Jam Records, Jay-Z, is not pleased.

“I view his comments as racist and will no longer support any of his products through any of my various brands including the 40/40 Club nor in my personal life.”

In response to the boycott, Louis Roederer said in a statement:
“A house like Louis Roederer would not have existed since 1776 without being totally open and tolerant to all forms of culture and art, including the most recent musical and fashion styles which — like hiphop — keep us in touch with modernity.”
[UPDATE] Jason Kottke, blogger par excellence, believes it’s not racism, but cultural distance that caused the conflagration.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. It’s funny…
    The Cristal references have been going on for years, and have been in countless hip-hop/rap songs, videos, and art forms influenced by the genre. It’s strange, and more than a little embarassing that Roederer–or more likely, Rouzaud himself–would be coming to terms with the now-mature phenomenon so late in the game.

  2. Well, my last race-based comments sparked unintended responses; nonetheless, I’m compelled to type an opinion here.
    What’s the difference between racism and cultural distance? Like it or not, Roederer exhibited passive bias. And Jay-Z took offense. It’s not like the French are beyond bias and racism — hell, are the riots involving Muslim youth in France still going on? I’ll bet Oprah calls Jay-Z to commiserate.
    A Jay-Z boycott is probably worse than a Jesse Jackson boycott. Too bad for Roederer. The Frenchman ought to consider sending some serious bling to Beyoncé.

  3. “…tolerant to all forms of culture and art.”
    Their explanation = hole dug deeper = foot further in mouth.
    Amazing to me that brands finding new audiences (read: minority/crossover) don’t basically just stfu and accept the $$$$). The only color that should matter is green.
    Timberland, Range Rover and Hummer were also brands that had to deal with the crossover issue. Think Timberland one day woke up and decided cool, let’s go urban? Not in their wildest dreams. But there it was.
    When I was working on Land Rover, this is exactly what they were freaking out over. New money was now throwing 70k down like tip money at Scores and another 70K to customize what was once the bastion of English gentlemen. You could hear squires turning over in their graves, but to their credit, LR went with it. (I am not a fan of their main TV and print, but another topic).
    A core audience won’t leave a brand just because someone else is using it all of a sudden. The ‘Flavor of the month’ mentality enters brands as fast as it leaves. Brands should relax, ride the wave of a nice year or two in sales blips, and chill.
    What they shouldn’t do is panic and totally abandon their core audience in favor of appealing just to the new money. Otherwise, that existing audience will feel cheated. Just cast a wider net.
    Brands trying to control their audience 100% will always find themselves outside looking in. Bottom line is you can’t control who buys your product or who hates it. Besides, at the end of the day, aren’t more sales what we’re all after?

  4. Hip Hop makes money in the billions for itself and corporations. People like Jay -Z are astute to this fact and position their brands to profit off of brands like Cristal try. I think Cristal has an image they want to uphold and I am sure Hip Hop was not their target demo. I find it curious after making allot of money off of Hip Hop consumption, BET & MTV free product placement now Cristal wants to distant their brand from that demographic. Now that Hip Hop has brought Cristal to the mainstream via free ad mentions. Cristal wants to now use the opportunity to re-connect with its target demo (free of charge thanks to Hip Hop).A Savvy strategy but I don’t call it racist. If I being an African American had a brand of Automobile like Maybach I would not want Flavor Flav driving around “acting out” in my brand. I would not want product placement in videos with scantily clad women being groped and Cristal being poured on them. The fact about high end prestige brands is yes they are about excess and extravagance but subdued behind private quarters. Act like you been there before don’t make a Maybach or Cristal seem common by placing the product in brand compromising situations. Rappers take these brands and showcase them to consumers who cannot even afford them for the purpose of bravado. The brands themselves don’t want placement in Wal-Mart because that is not the marketing strategy. The Ying Yang twins promoting Cristal dilutes the brand that works against the marketing strategy. It is just business not racism. Jay-Z would not want nerds wearing his rocawear clothing brand. You see Sean John’s product placement and it is always sexy and attractive they would not feature a nerd because of their brand strategy. So it is not racism it is just business. I doubt Cristal would disapprove of Will Smith or Michael Jordan promoting the product. Hip Hop has been a culture of rip-off whether it be stealing samples for beats or stealing icons of rich decadence like Cristal and remix-in it to validate the genre.