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PepsiCo cuts ties with Lil Wayne: The trouble with partering with badboys June 30, 2013

Posted by rmshepard in Uncategorized.
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Celebrity endorsements can elevate brands, but scandal can quickly spoil that magic. Look no further than Lil Wayne and his partnership with Mountain Dew. In a leaked remix of Future’s “Karate Chop,” the rapper is heard contributing a line “beat the p—y up like Emmett Till.” Till was the black teenager who was beat and murdered in Mississippi in the 1950’s after allegedly whistling at a white woman. As reported by Us Weekly, the Mamie Mobley Foundation, which honors the memory of Till and his mother, criticized Lil Wayne for tarnishing the memory of a civil rights icon. After fighting the criticism for a bit, the rapper released the following apology:

“As a recording artist, I have always been interested in word play. My lyrics often reference people, places, and events in my music, as well as the music that I create for or alongside other artists. …It has come to my attention that lyrics from my contribution to a fellow artist’s song has deeply offended your family. As a father myself, I cannot imagine the pain that your family has had to endure.”

Despite Lil Wayne’s attempt to make things right, Till’s family met with PepsiCo and encouraged the company to cut ties with the rapper. The company did just that not long after the meeting.

What’s to learn from Lil Wayne’s incident? Rev. Al Sharpton argued that companies are going too far to reach consumers, and act appalled when they get just what they were seeking. He stated:

“The brand wants street cred, the artist gives them something that’s outrageous — and when the streets turn on them, the artist becomes expendable.”

For more on this story, see the following segment from news show The Young Turks:

Discussion Questions:

1.  How do celebrity endorsements function persuasively?

2.  Why are celebrity endorsements risky?

3.  Should companies share responsibility for the actions of the celebrities with whom they have partnered?

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