Magazine article Variety

Mr. Worldwide Scores with Strategic Partners

Magazine article Variety

Mr. Worldwide Scores with Strategic Partners

Article excerpt

Read an interview, any interview, with Pitbull from five or six years ago, as the Miamiborn rapper was forcing his way into the American pop mainstream, and you're likely to come across reference to his multi-year plan for world domination. It went something like this:

"2009: freedom. 2010: invasion. 2011: build empire. 2012: grow wealth. 2013: put the puzzle together. 2014: buckle up. 2015: make history?

Now one year past the last notch on his initial timetable, how does Pitbull (real name Armando Christian Pérez) feel he's fared?

"Every one of those was right on the money? he says. In fact, he's expanded those plans even further, as he explains: "2016 is disruption, and we're disrupting as we speak. 2017: gingerbread man, catch me if you can. And 2018: legacy?

This sort of talk sums up Pitbull's "Mr. Worldwide" persona remarkably well: An overblown, goofily self-aggrandizing mixture of Tony Robbins and Tony Montana that stops feeling so silly when you realize how sincerely the singer means it, and how well he's managed to pull it all off.

Pitbull is set to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on July 15, and he notes that his star will be within a few steps of his idol, Celia Cruz. ("Two Cubans on the same block!" he beams.) He's accomplished this level of stardom through music that seems a logical outgrowth of that multiyear philosophy, producing dizzy, frenetic, sometimes silly pop spectacles with a very serious business theory behind them. While none of his albums have yet gone platinum, Pitbull has been involved with 22 Top 40 singles over the past decade, and stands as one of the most streamed artists of all time - in other words, he's learned how to make his hits land where they count.

Pitbull's endorsementfriendly approach to brandbuilding, equal parts savvy and shamelessness, has also been visible since the beginning of his pop reign. As soon as he started notching up singles like "I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)" (No. 2 in 2009), "Give Me Everything" (No. l in 2011), and "Timber" (three weeks at No. l in 2013), he also started minting deals with Bud Light, Dr Pepper, Playboy, Dodge, Kodak. While few pop stars of Pitbull's stature don't dabble in brand partnerships, Pitbull's enthusiasm for the marketing side of the gig stands out.

Perhaps the most unusual demonstration of this enthusiasm came in 2012, when he partnered with Walmart for a promotion that would send the singer to appear at whichever Walmart location garnered the most Facebook likes. An internet prank campaign - dubbed #exilepitbull - soon emerged to send the singer to a Walmart in Kodiak Island, Alaska, urging Pitbull-haters to stuff the digital ballot box. Practically, the campaign «- was successful; the Kodiak Walmart was the winner. But philosophically, Pitbull ensured that the attempted embarrassment backfired completely: He showed up, glad-handled the locals, and appeared to sincerely enjoy himself on the remote Alaskan outpost, announcing, "I'll travel anywhere in the world for my fans."

This ability to turn mockery into a badge of honor, to counter smartypants snark with disarmingly unironic gumption, has been a constant for Pitbull. Nonetheless, it's hard to imagine him being roped into a similar deal these days, as he's grown more discerning about his business ventures.

"Throughout the years, I've seen a lot of people wanna use the word partnership, but then drop the ball from their side, like, just because a name is attached to it, it's gonna do all their work for them," he says. "There's no magic trick, there's no silver bullet, there's no cutting comers when it comes to building businesses. Because that's what you've gotta do, you've gotta build 'em. So when you have a partner that understands it's short steps and long vision, then you got the right partner. And that takes a long time."

Finding the right partners has also been an essential element of his music career. Few of his biggest singles have featured the singer alone, and he's wracked up three Top 5 singles as a featured artist. …

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