April 28th, 2011
Expert sources: Potent alcoholic beverages look like soda pop, target young drinkers
It works every time? The marketing and rebranding efforts for the fruity flavored malt beverage “Blast by Colt 45,” referred to as “binge in a can” by its critics, are “irresponsible” from a health perspective but admittedly effective, says Antonio Williams, a fitness and marketing expert in Indiana University’s School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.
“It looks like soda pop,” Williams said of the beverage, which packs an alcohol concentration of 12 percent in its colorful 23.5-ounce cans. “It clearly looks like soda pop. Also the use of Snoop Dogg, a hugely successful hip-hop artist and music industry mogul, tells me where they’re going.” The brewing controversy surrounding the drink has made more people aware of it—for better or for worse. Williams said Snoop Dogg’s pitching brings to mind the successful campaigns in the 1980s that had actor Billy Dee Williams pitching Colt 45, with the slogan “It works every time.” Those were controversial, too, because of their focus on urban African Americans. Snoop Dogg, says IU’s Williams, will also appeal to urban African Americans but also taps white suburban hip-hop fans, making him an effective pitchman for the under 32 market. “We wouldn’t be having this conversation if the branding wasn’t so cleverly targeted to appeal to teens and young adults,” Williams said. “If they were targeting adults over 25, or if it was a premium packaged champagne that had a higher than normal alcoholic content, for example, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
The issue isn’t the alcohol percentage, but rather, the branding and image of the product. Williams says the alcohol content and health risks should be clearly marked on the beverage cans and that store clerks need to be vigilant about checking IDs. Parents play the most important role in minimizing the risk to underage drinkers, he said, urging parents to become familiar with Blast and similar drinks. “I’m more afraid of parents not being aware,” he said. “I can easily see it being passed as a soda pop—a kid walking through the home with that in his hand and the parents not being aware.”