Absolut Brooklyn by Spike Lee and the Brand Union

Absolut Brooklyn by Spike Lee and the Brand Union

Spike Lee collaborated with The Brand Union to design the latest installment in Absolut vodka’s city series of limited edition bottles and flavors. The design features a brownstone stoop with the number 165 on the front door, referencing Lee’s childhood home in Cobble Hill.

Absolut Brooklyn by Spike Lee and the Brand Union

Lee has dedicated $50,000 dollars of the limited edition vodka’s proceeds to Habitat for Humanity in New York City, which is dedicated to creating affordable home ownership opportunities for NYC residents, and thus is also presumably a supporter of stoop life.

Absolut Brooklyn by Spike Lee and the Brand Union

The Absolut symbol of Lars Olsson Smith on the seal has been altered with Spike Lee-style thick-rimmed glasses and a baseball cap [this is my favorite part of the redesign]:

Absolut Brooklyn by Spike Lee and the Brand Union

So, hmm… On the one hand, I think it’s great for Spike Lee to have the opportunity to visually represent his hometown in this non-filmic way, and I love that he chose something as seemingly prosaic as the ubiquitous stoop. On the other hand, I can’t get past the idea of imbibing on the stoop, which happens, but which I can’t imagine Absolut condoning or even acknowledging. So, does this label commodify Brooklyn? Sure it does. But, for whatever it’s worth, Brooklyn is a commodity. At least someone with a personal history and genuine empathy for the place and its people got to have a hand in this project. I could definitely stand to lose the redundant verbage, though. Bucktown, really?

Just for shits and giggles, I have to throw in this cheeseball statement from Brooklyn [err, Bucktown] Borough President Marty Markowitz, “I must say, it puts me in very good ‘spirits’ whenever I hear that one of Brooklyn’s own, like superstar Spike Lee, shows us all what it means to ‘do the right things’ […] It’s an Absolut win-win – a philanthropic cocktail with the perfect Brooklyn mixology.” What a ham…

Via The Dieline, Hip-Hop Wired, and Beverage World.

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9 thoughts on “Absolut Brooklyn by Spike Lee and the Brand Union

  1. Yes, the compensated blog product placement of Absolut Brooklyn is pretty nauseating.

    I agree with you that Brooklyn is a commodity and it is ever more commodified with the creeping of gentrification. (Who ever thought that Bushwick would be fetishized and sold as the next artistic enclave?) I don’t have a problem with the Spike Lee/Absolut collaboration in principle but I do have to say that this is commercial inauthenticity-in-search-of-at-authenticity at its worst. It’s as clumsy as “red apple and ginger” [perish the thought] vodka.

  2. Alexis, I agree. But, if Absolut is going to commodify Brooklyn, at least they worked with someone who does genuinely represent a facet of the borough.

    The transformation of Bushwick, and the hype surrounding it, amaze me, but places change. I was once surprised about Williamsburg, and then Greenpoint, and then every reference to Flatbush in the NYT Real Estate section shocked me. What’s next? Bensonhurst?

    As for this blogosphere incident, it seems pretty lame to begin with, but people should have just been straightforward about what was happening. Things like this happen on a much smaller scale in Cincinnati, and I just stay out the fray altogether. I do regularly receive press releases and semi-personalized appeals to write about one local thing or another, and I’m always surprised that I’m not being offered anything in return. This Absolut/blog deal at least “compensated” bloggers in some way.

  3. Real quick re Lee representing a facet of the borough: he lives on the Upper East Side. In a $7MM (in dollars) townhouse. Do you think he still meaningfully reps Brooklyn?

  4. I don’t know the guy, but I don’t see why not. He no more defines Brooklyn than it defines him but, as I said, there is a facet of Brooklyn that represents his personal experience. He’s convincingly drawn on it in his films. So what that he’s successful enough now to have the option of living on the UES?

    I don’t mean to make too much of what’s really just a pretext for a new vodka flavor and the marketing thereof.

  5. Wow, that interview was painful. Spike Lee didn’t seem to want to answer questions at all. So, is he saying that the form of the stoop references his Crown Heights home while using his Cobble Hill street number? I’m not sure anything about this stoop illustration “reads” Crown Heights as opposed to Cobble Hill, or Brooklyn Heights or Park Slope for that matter.

  6. Painful is the word. Given how dour he’s seemed about the whole thing –for instance, he’d start talking about gentrification and then cut himself off by apologizing to Absolut and saying he couldn’t talk anymore– I have no inkling of why he thought this was a good collaboration.

    Unless he really loves red apples and ginger.

    I’d love to see some of these the Cincinnatisphere swag scandals in action. I think whether or not you are offered anything besides partnership or content really has to do with the size of the company; apparently Absolut (and General Mills and CSN Stores, which is always giving away stuff) don’t think that people will blog them for the love of the brand?

  7. I doubt that this was a very involved collaboration on Lee’s part. It seems that these endeavors basically utilize a celebrity name for cachet or street cred.

    I’m sure that the local bloggers who cover food or nightlife get offers from companies, but I can’t point to an outcome. A local publication contacted me at one point, offering a subscriber name/password in exchange for a spot on my blogroll. I didn’t do it, but it seemed like a fair exchange.

    I applied for a PR position a couple of years ago with a local cultural institution. The person who got the job started sending me constant emails about promoting events and such; a few complaint letters later, I was off her list. Then, a couple of months ago, her supervisor [my would-have-been boss] emailed me and asked me to help promote an upcoming event on my blog. That really hit a nerve, and I wrote back and said that I really can’t afford to work gratis for them; that’s part of the reason why I’d applied for a job there! In hindsight, I probably took this too personally and burned a bridge in the process, but I was really upset by this. If I had been offered something in exchange, I probably still would not have done it, but at least it would have seemed fair in some way.

    The truth is that I DO promote things that I think are worth promoting. It’s just that I do it on my own, so I get to state my honest opinion without feeling any pressure.

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