Centric Toasts ‘Master’

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In a toast to integrated
product placement in entertainment
content, BET Networks’
Centric is teaming with
spirits company Diageo PLC
to produce a new reality series
that will significantly highlight
Diageo’s Smirnoff vodka brand.

Diageo will provide most of
the financing and have significant
creative input in the new
series, Master of the Mix, which
follows several disc jockeys competing
in music-mixing competitions.

The series, featuring well known
DJ Kid Capri and hiphop
producer Just Blaze, will
debut Nov. 4 at 10 p.m. — the late
start serving as a nod to the alcohol-
related branding present
throughout the program.

The show is also expected to
have a one-time run on BET Saturdays
at midnight.

Each contestant making it to
the next round of the eight-part
series will be toasted with a Diageo
alcoholic beverage. A segment
of the half-hour show will
be devoted to teaching viewers
how to mix drinks, Centric officials said.

Several episodes will take
place at Smirnoff-sponsored
events, further driving the
brand.

“We were looking to do something
different in the genre with
known entities and give [Diageo]
an opportunity to literally be in
the mix and give a different spin
on the whole competitive factor,”
Centric general manager Paxton
Baker said. “Part of it is branding
and part of it is opening new
avenues and trying new things
— if there’s anything this marketplace
has taught us, it’s that
this is a good time to be innovative
and creative, so for them this
is one of those opportunities to
try something new.”

Baker said he isn’t concerned
that the integrated alcohol
presence will cause a backlash
among the network’s 25-to-54-
year-old target audience. He
said the club scene, where much
of the series takes place, and the
presence of alcohol are integrally
entwined — much as wine is part
of a dinner-based cooking show.

“We’re mindful of the message,
but Centric is not designed
to be a channel for young people,
but rather for adults,” he said.
“We didn’t find this to be out of
line with our programming philosophy
or the philosophy for
the channel itself. From our client’s
perspective, we wanted to
integrate their product into the
show.”

Vodka producer Grey Goose
sponsored BET’s Rising Icons series
and pharmaceuticals company
Johnson & Johnson helped
underwrite the channel’s reality
series Harlem Heights, BET Networks
executive vice president
of media sales Raymond Goulbourne
said.

“You want to create content
that viewers find exciting, but
at the same time you have other
constituents that are reinforced
and motivated to be a part of your
content. It’s a fine line, but we felt
this was the right company to
work with,” he said. “We’re confi -
dent that it’s not going to come off
as one big commercial but rather
as captivating content.”

Diageo will put “multimilliondollar”
marketing support behind
the show and the network
itself, according to Goulbourne.

“It’s a good thing for Centric,
BET and the category,” he said.
“We were very excited to see
Diageo’s commitment and recognition
of the value that the
African-American and multicultural
markets play in growing its
brand.”

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