[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 8 June 2006, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
Taking the shine off Cristal
By Finlo Rohrer
BBC News Magazine

P Diddy
Bosses might feel a little ambivalent over this image
Rappers love it, quaff it, idolise it. But the makers of Cristal champagne have revealed they are at best ambivalent about the patronage of the hip-hop fraternity.

In its clear bottle with the gold label and the UV-filter wrapper, Cristal is a distinctive enough brand to start with.

Commissioned at the behest of Tsar Alexander II in the 19th Century, the Louis Roederer marque was revived after World War II. It is the drink of kings and princes, and failing that, surely captains of industry and Grace Kelly-style film stars at the very least.

No longer. Now it is the drink of people whose taste in luxury items stretches only to things that are big and shiny, with big, shiny badges on them. Rappers like Gucci, they like Prada, they drive Bentleys and Benzes and most of all they sup Cristal.

And it seems that Louis Roederer may have started to think twice about endorsement from a community that even likes its guns gold-plated.

Asked by the Economist about whether associations with rap stars could affect the marque, new managing director Frederic Rouzaud said: "That's a good question, but what can we do? We can't forbid people from buying it. I'm sure Dom Perignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business."

The ice in my teeth keep the Cristal cold
Young Buck

Graham Hales, of branding experts Interbrand, says the short answer is that brands can do nothing.

"You can have an exclusivity around your brand but these are people who can afford it and are voting for it. You have to go try and find a way to make it a good thing."

It might be known as the Burberry effect. Luxury brand gets adopted by football hooligans and Danniella Westbrook. Brand panics. Brand finds there is nothing it can do. Brand just gets on with life.

Indeed, the rappers aren't suggesting kids steal Cristal, they are merely thanking the Lord for giving them the talent to earn the money to buy it.