Last year, caffeinated malt beverage Four Loko was roundly criticized for ostensibly being marketed toward children. With its fruit flavors, brightly colored cans and bizarre recipe that supposedly made people behave erratically, Four Loko did have a difficult time making the case that it was a beverage for responsible adults. It wasn’t long before legislators got involved, forcing Four Loko to at least remove the caffeine from its recipe.
With no caffeine hyping up the young people, much of the hype around Four Loko died down, and news on the teen malt liquor front has been sparse since then. But a new Four Loko competitor is changing all that. About one year after Four Loko burst on the scene and terrified parents, get ready for round two.
Say hello to Blast, a new fruit-flavored malt beverage from the infamous Colt 45. With neon packaging similar to that of Four Loko’s and flavors like Blueberry Pomegranate and Strawberry Lemonade, Blast is perhaps the first real rival for Four Loko since it removed caffeine from its recipe. What’s more, it’s got a celebrity spokesperson, Snoop Dogg, and a tagline made famous by Billy Dee Williams: “Works every time.”
As you can imagine, Blast is not going over well with anti-alcohol groups who believe the beverage is being targeted directly toward Black children.
“What is happening here is an obvious attempt to foist this stuff on young African-American men,” Tom Burrell, a former ad executive, told the New York Times. “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.”
A spokesman for Colt 45 responded to the criticisms, saying, “We’re not going to be showing up and selling this at schools or anything like that.”
Regardless of what Colt 45 says, it seems pretty obvious that Blast is being marketed directly toward African-Americans. Whether it’s aimed directly at children remains to be seen. Go to any bar in America and you’ll see that there are plenty of adults who like sugary drinks and Snoop Dogg, too. And lots of people over the age of 21 enjoyed Four Loko when it first came out. Incedentally, I saw a significant number of white adults enjoying Four Loko when it came out — perhaps they were drinking it ironically, but they were drinking it nonetheless.
Ultimately, until there’s real legislation that says pop stars and bright colors, things kids like, can’t be used in commercials, we’re going to keep seeing ads and products like Blast and Four Loko. Instead of spending time decrying those, perhaps parent groups should put more effort on getting their children excited about learning, reading or playing music. When you’ve got a life full of other exciting and enriching things, getting wasted on malt liquor all the time starts to look a lot less appealing — Snoop Dogg or no.
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