Monday, Nov. 16, 2009 | 11:09 a.m.
The Making of Ciroc Star with Chester French & Clinton Sparks
The following is the second half of a two-part story. Click here to read the first installment, which was published on Sunday.
While Sean “Diddy” Combs has yet to reach Frank Sinatra status, he paid homage to Ol' Blue Eyes in an ad for his Ciroc vodka earlier this year.
Set to, “Come Fly With Me,” Combs demonstrated “the art of celebration” in the classy, '50s-inspired commercial.
As far as Combs is concerned, business – whether it be his fragrance line, his Sean John clothing line, his music, his acting or his vodka – is an art.
He was captured on video discussing the art of nightlife earlier this year during a visit to the Southern Wine and Spirits of Nevada campus.
The comments, which N9NE Group vice president Michael Fuller posted to his YouTube channel, sparked speculation that Combs was in discussions to develop a nightlife concept at the Palms.
“We are plotting and planning on doing some innovative things in the nightlife industry,” he told Fuller’s handheld camera.
Yet Combs was coy as to what, exactly, those plans were.
“I can’t give any of you guys any more information,” he said during the clip.
“You know my man, here, he runs ... nightlife,” he said, referring to the N9NE Group VP who stood at his side.
“Nightlife is an art,” Combs continued. “Some people look at it as a business, this man right here looks at it as an art, like I do.”
On Saturday, however, Combs clarified his YouTube statements.
“I’m not exclusive to any club,” he said. “I’m open to building relationships with any club out there.”
And for him, relationships are just part – a big part – of business.
“It’s important because vodka has to be sold at every club,” he said. “We had to come out here and really work the relationships with the club owners, really keep them abreast of what’s going on, really make sure that they understand … for their club to be hot and to be runnin’ and to be on time, that this is the hottest thing movin’ in on the streets.”
“It wasn’t just nightlife in Vegas,” he continued, referencing the YouTube video. “It (was) just the way we’re approaching promoting, marketing, (and) branding this brand in an industry that has been dominated by other players.”
He said he and the Ciroc team were changing the way they did business and were promoting their brand in new and exciting ways.
“We’re doing the Diddy Ciroc Challenge,” Combs began. “It’s like the Pepsi Challenge.”
The blindfolded taste tests puts Ciroc up against Belvedere, Grey Goose and Absolut vodkas and asks patrons to pick their favorite one.
Though the promotion is in its first week, Diddy said it’s doing well.
“Ciroc is winning 80 percent, which is just phenomenal,” he said. “Even we didn’t think it was going to be that high.”
Combs is leveraging his music industry expertise and celebrity juice to produce another so-called innovative initiative, an endorsement-laden single that he’s hoping will soon become a hit.
“We made a song with Chester French and Jadakiss called Ciroc Star,” he said.
The song is currently available for download from French’s Web site as part of the so-called mix tape, "Jacques Jams, Vol. 1: Endurance.” (It is the 17th song on the compilation, listed under “CHAPTER 4: Arriving In LALA Land.”)
The music tycoon is betting the track will become a staple in the clubs (think LMFAO’s “Shots”) and plans to soon shoot a music video for it, as well.
Along with Diddy, French and Jadakiss, Body English resident DJ and E! personality Clinton Sparks also contributed to the single.
“I don’t know any beverage has its own song,” Combs observed.
It’s all part of Combs’ larger vision and marketing strategy.
“That’s the way we’re infiltrating into the nightlife scene,” he said.
Not that he needs help getting into clubs.
Diddy is, after all, a seasoned party host. He’s been partying at the hottest spots not only in Las Vegas, but around the world, since the early Puff Daddy days. (The rapper changed his moniker to P. Diddy in 2001 before settling upon the relatively simple Diddy in 2005.)
Of all the clubs he’s visited, though, he likes his hangout at the Venetian the best.
"I’d probably say Tao is my favorite,” he said.
Granted, that opinion may very well have changed since his sit-down with the Sun. While he is a hosting vet and knows his way around the Vegas club circuit, he had never been to Victor Drai’s glittery playground at Encore before Saturday night.
“I’m going to check out this club everybody is telling me about, XS,” Combs told the Sun on Saturday afternoon. “I’m going to check that out tonight.”
He planned on doing a little clubbling with his good friend, boxer and XS regular, Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“We be hangin’ out tonight,” Combs said.
Just a few hours after the interview, Diddy and Mayweather were front and center at the fight.
“I just want to go and enjoy it,” Combs said earlier that afternoon.
“I’m here for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight,” he added – though that match-up may not even happen.
Both boxers have yet to formally agree to face each other in the ring.
Mayweather, who is 40-0 and has 25 knockouts to his name, and Combs hit the town as planned after they witnessed Pacquiao’s 12th-round victory over Miguel Cotto.
There was more than boxing and clubbing on Combs’ Las Vegas weekend agenda. He also went door-to-door campaigning for Ciroc vodka while he was in town.
“I’m really waging war against my competitors,” he said. “I’m driving around, in my car, and just walking into stores unannounced and thanking the store owners for their support. … I’m taking it to the streets, you know what I’m sayin’?”
Combs drove out to the Lee’s Discount Liquor store on South Rainbow Boulevard on Saturday afternoon and paid the outpost an unexpected visit.
“I met Mr. Lee last time I was here, so I wanted to come back and really (thank him),” he explained.
Though in-store appearances may seem below him, the 40-year-old mogul is doing anything and everything he can to further the name of Ciroc vodka.
So far, his endorsement efforts have paid off.
“We’ve grown 1,000 percent since I’ve been involved with it,” Combs said.
The brand will roll out two new kinds of vodka – a strawberry-raspberry flavor dubbed redberry and a coconut version – in February.
Combs said the taste of his flavored vodkas would be what sets them apart amidst the already saturated flavored-spirit market.
Combs said Ciroc's flavored varieties won’t taste like those from other brands, which he likened to Buckley’s or Robitussin.
“No vodka has ever got the flavors right,” Combs alleged. “They all taste like cough syrup.”
Ciroc has changed all that, he said – though imbibers will have to wait until February to taste the difference for themselves.
Coincidentally, February is also when Diddy’s new album, “Last Train to Paris,” drops.
He said fans should expect a new-sounding Diddy on the upcoming release.
“It’s just a new sound, a new vibe,” he said. “It’s just raw, soul music.”
Melissa Arseniuk writes about Las Vegas entertainment and celebrity events. She can be reached at 702-948-7823 or by e-mail at [email protected].
Editor's note: Ciroc was misspelled in the original version of this story. It has been corrected.